The Ribbed Mockneck Tank features a classic silhouette for $30 and is a popular item on Everlane’ site. The product is made from certified organic cotton. Everlane prides itself on radical transparency and does excel in consumer transparency by breaking down their costs for each product. However, their transparency is lacking in certain aspects, sometimes harmless such as providing relevant manufacturing information, sometimes harmful such as covering up their questionable ethics.
This top is made from 97% organic cotton and 3% elastance. Everlane has receieved a GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD (GOTS) certification on their cotton. On GOTS’s site, they state that all of Everlane’s clothing products use 100% certified organic cotton. GOTS certification is one of the more restrictive organic cotton certification that consists of four distinctive and unique features: Organic Fibres, Ecological and Social Criteria, All Processing Stages, Third-Party.
On Everlane’s site was something I had never seen before: a page dedicated to their factory. Other brands make it nearly impossible to find factory operations on third party websites, let alone their own website. However, reading into the page, the purpose of it was lost to me. The factory is Nobland Vietnam Co., Ltd. in Ho Chi Minh City with 8,000 employees. Everlane states this factory is “Known for their technical expertise and progressive culture”. However, there is no mention of sustainability or environmental impacts of this factory on the page, which is strange considering Everlane markets itself as a sustainable brand.
On the factory’s website, we see they received an ISO 14001 certification,for which companies have to create their own Environmental Management System (EMS) that meets ISO’s standards to demonstrate their efforts for managing environmental impacts. However, this certification expired in May 2020 and there is no evidence on the site of pursuing a renewal. It is naive to claim certifications as the end-all solution especially as some companies and factories have financial limitations in pursuing said certifications. However, a certification is better than no certification at all. That said, the best direction for Nobland would be to address the expired certification and ensure that the same practices that earned the factory the certification are still in place.
However, the less accessible CSR report does a much better job of revealing the other sustainability and social initiatives the company has implemented. The report is centered around Employee Empowerment, Design for Sustainability, Sharing Hands (community impact) and Smart Manufacturing Innovation. One interesting sustainability initiative is the factory has its own water treatment plant to prevent dangerous runoff to the surrounding environment. The report is well-done with photographic evidence and reveals Nobland’ actionable/meaningful initiatives.
However, there have not been any updates, a common trend in corporate sustainability efforts. Furthermore, there haven’t been any third party verification for all of these initiatives. The backgrounding of the CSR report on the site and lack of an update makes me question the integrity of all of these initiatives Nobland claims to implement.
Clearly, Nobland does have sustainable practices in place. Everlane should mention these practices over the current fluff on the factory page to avoid the appearance of greenwashing. I appreciate how Everlane made the factory accessible but by not listing relevant information of the Nobland’s sustainable and environmental initiatives on their site, they transferring their responsibility to consumers. For these reasons, Everlane earns a 0.75 rating.
Everlane Inc. prides itself on being “radically transparent” and creating timeless rather than trendy pieces. However, this radical transparency is called into question at times.
From a consumer perspective, they excel in price transparency as they reveal the cost of every step in the manufacturing process and help justify the price.
However, from a sustainability perspective they have some improvements to make, particularly in expanding and verifying their sustainable textile usage. Everlane does have some interesting initiatives such as using Roica® V550 in denim—the first stretch yarn worldwide that isn’t made with harmful chemicals or designing the “Forever Shoe” a fully recyclable shoe.
They also cite the use of more sustainable fabrics beyond cotton and denim such as 100% recycled activewear fabric or more sustainable cashmere. However, these materials are either only available in special product lines or not certified/verified by a third party.
Everlane also lists many certifications, potentially as fluff but one certification worth noting: bluesign. This is certified to manufacturers who have removed all bluesign-identified harmful chemicals from the manufacturing process.
However, from an ethical standpoint Everlane does not perform well. They have been at the forefront of many issues such as being accused of union busting and cite a 2.8 rating on Glassdoor from employees. For example, for several years, the company capped the hours of the customer service team so they didn’t need to provide health insurance and benefits. However, when the customer service team attempted to unionize, Everlane discouraged them from doing so and then proceeded to lay off most of the same customer service team. The laid off customer experience reps were encouraged to reapply for their jobs in Fall 2020, but most were rejected, and the company instead hired from the Philippines. Although all companies have to cut losses at times, the lack of empathy towards their employees is not acceptable.
As a company that prides itself on transparency, the severe lack of transparency towards its employees earns Everlane a 0 in this category.