MATE The Label Organic Stretch Biker Shorts

overall rating:

2.5

planets

Clare Shanahan
10/28/2021
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MATE the Label is a women-owned women’s clothing brand. Their organic stretch biker shorts are in many ways a fantastic product, and the company is well on its way to being the model for a sustainable business and product range. I do think that there are some areas where MATE can improve. I would like more transparency in terms of specific materials and dyes, as well as simplifying their - admittedly already very simple - supply chain. 

What it's made of:

2.4

The organic biker shorts are made of a combination of 92% organic cotton and 8% spandex, the company acknowledges that spandex is not a very good product, but it is necessary to provide stretch to their clothing and they make a conscious effort to include as little of it as possible. Spandex is made up of toxic materials and comes from polyurethane which is a carcinogen. The material is also non-biodegradable and has to be replaced often. However, I don’t think this destroys MATE’s sustainability rating because, as I mentioned previously, this material is almost essential to creating activewear and they use far less than other brands. The organic cotton used in these shorts is produced with 37.1% lower carbon emissions and 85.3% less water than conventional cotton. This cotton is grown in India, which means the material must be shipped extremely far to the company’s facilities in LA; however, in 2020, MATE offset all of their carbon emissions financially. Additionally, the company claims to be working to find an alternative farm and achieve a fully domestic supply chain. The dye used in MATE products is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This certification process analyzes the entire supply chain of materials and takes into account not only environmental impact in terms of resources and lack of chemicals and GMOs in the growing process, but also the health and safety of individuals involved in the supply chain. It’s also important to note that GOTS ensures that any dyes used in products are free of carcinogens and other chemicals. I am extremely impressed that MATE is able to meet all of these standards with their dyes. The company also has a list of 31 chemicals and 49 dye substances that are entirely banned from use in their products. However, it is unclear what the actual dyes used in the MATE products are. The company commits itself to using no plastic in their products or packaging and the packaging they do use is composed of recycled and compostable materials. I think that, on the whole, it is impressive that this company commits itself to using such low waste materials that are not only described as organic, sustainable, and otherwise by their own company, but certified by outside organizations such as GOTS. However, the one area where I think MATE the Label can do better as far as materials is being more transparent in terms of specifics. Rather than telling me that they use GOTS certified dyes, I would love to know what dye is used in these organic biker shorts. In addition to telling me what is not in their materials, and detailing the characteristics of what is, I would love to know what the products are and where they come from. 

How it's made:

2.3

MATE the Label prides itself on keeping all of the facilities involved in its supply chain within 15 miles of their office in LA; however, this qualification does not take into account the fact that their organic cotton comes from India. This one detail makes me somewhat distrustful, or at least question the claims made by the company. With that said, I was impressed by the fact that MATE not only has, but publishes the very clear and strict guidelines that they hold for any and all facilities involved in their supply chain and how they enforce them. These guidelines ensure that all facilities have ethical working conditions, fair wages, and minimal use of resources such as water. The company boasts that they do regular checks of all facilities but does not clarify what regular means, which I believe leaves an excessively wide range of interpretation. One stipulation in their requirements which I thought was particularly interesting was that facilities involved in the supply chain of this product are not allowed to use subcontractors, allowing MATE the Label to better monitor that they are adhering to their sustainability guidelines. Most of these facilities, of which there are five, are relatively small and individually owned, which I consider a plus. However, only one of them expresses a commitment to sustainability throughout their operations, beyond simply what is required of them by MATE, which primarily relates to working conditions, exposure to toxic or hazardous chemicals for workers, and recycling fabric scraps from MATE the Label products. Additionally, in researching these factories, several of them claim to offer “full package” plans for the brands they work with, and these seem to encompass all of the steps that MATE describes in their production process; however, these shorts cycle between all five companies. I think it is a poor decision on MATE the Label’s part to not further simplify their supply chain to avoid all of the shipping, even if it is short, and packaging required to move their products between all five facilities. I appreciate that the company is specific in the working conditions they expect in their facilities, rather than simply making vague statements. One part of the production process that I particularly appreciate about this product is that the company recycles all fabric scraps from their factories and uses them to create new clothing. After reviewing the guidelines for this company's factories, I am impressed by what they ask of their suppliers; however, I find it a bit of an oversight that they do not rely on companies similarly dedicated to sustainability as MATE the Label is in their whole production process, not just when creating MATE products. 

Who makes it:

2.7

MATE the Label as a company was created by women for women with a specific goal of creating sustainable products. As a company they are climate neutral certified, which means that they offset their entire 2020 carbon footprint and plan to continue to do so in the future by investing in Uganda Affordable Cookstoves and Native Alaskans Saving Lands. These organizations support Ugandan families as well as reducing their emissions and deforestation, and support and protect Native Alaskans as well as black bears. In order to get this certification, the company also had to meet specific standards in their production process and create clear goals for the future as well as plans for how they will implement those sustainability goals. They are working to include more recycled materials in their supply chain by partnering with a recycling company to reuse fabric scraps in new products. They are also offering a circular donation program to reduce emissions from disposal of clothing and setting caps on emissions to allow for company growth while keeping a small carbon footprint. The company also uses a product and materials rating system that takes into account many factors and gives each material a grade which is determined by conducting life cycle assessments as far as impact over their whole lifecycle on all products. This tells me that not only is MATE the Label committed to sustainability in a surface or obvious way, but they are thorough in how they assess sustainable products and their operations. The company has also dedicated time and money to social justice and political movements. In addition to their internal work to ensure that they are upholding social justice and equity values, the company contributed over $20,000 to nonprofits supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and raised over $2000 to support Raheem which is an independent online service created for reporting police abuse that has since evolved to work towards creating an alternative resource to police. In addition to these monetary donations, the company launched a “Vote for Her” movement to analyze the 2020 presidential candidates in terms of their environmental impacts. The company has started a circularity program; they recycle all scraps produced in their facilities and they have an optional program for consumers to return their products to be recycled. Finally, MATE the Label has a partnership with 1% for the Planet, an organization that asks shoppers to choose one of multiple nonprofit organizations, selected by MATE through 1% for the Planet to donate 1% of their purchases to. Through this program, the company has donated $95,000 to environmental and social justice organizations in 2020. The only complaint I could possibly find about this is that 1% does not seem like a lot to me, but even then 1% on every purchase certainly adds up and they are clearly making a large impact. One small thing about MATE the Label that I appreciated is, in addition to the high standards they hold their supply chain and factories to, they also strive for sustainability in small ways in their office operations. They avoid plastic use as much as possible and rely on sustainable office supplies, as well as providing essential and unique benefits to their employees. One policy I find interesting is that MATE gives their employees paid volunteer days, giving the employees opportunities to support movements or organizations they care about without sacrificing any income. I think that MATE the Label is sustainable in far more than just the minimal ways and has shown dedication and commitment to sustainability in its many forms throughout their operations and online image.