Aritzia is a company that prides itself of its “basics” clothing items that serve as classic styles that will be able to last in one’s closet forever. Many people classify the company to be sustainable because their message opposes the ideas of fast fashion and not encouraging fads. However, does sending this message to consumers really make a company sustainable in practice?
In regards to the Melina Pant, Aritzia advertises that the leather is vegan in opposition to real leather. Real leather can have a lot of environmental implications due to raising livestock. Cows release a lot of methane which is a greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change. Additionally, the land required to raise cattle causes a lot of deforestation and habitat loss especially in South America. Is vegan leather more sustainable than real leather, and does Artizia’s vegan leather pass the sustainability test the company’s mantra sets up for it?
The Melina Pant by Aritzia is made with 100% polyurethane and 100% polyester in the inside. Aritzia does disclose that all of their materials are imported, meaning they are coming from multiple different sources or manufacturers. The traveling distance from importing sources greatly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and thus, climate change. However, Aritzia engages in a carbon offset project upholding the Verified Carbon Standard to make sure the amount of carbon produced is 100% equal to the carbon they sequester each year. For the polyester, it is made from post used recycled polyester from plastic bottles certified by the Global Recycled Standard. It is great to see companies like Aritzia use recycled materials for their fabrics. However, there is no information on how sustainably sourced the polyurethane they use is. A big problem with polyurethane is that it is not biodegradable so it contributes to micro-plastic pollution. These micro-plastics can enter our water systems and bioaccumulate up the food chain and release toxins. Aritzia is aware of these environmental problems and mentions they have collaborated with Ocean Wise Plastics Lab to further research micro-plastic pollution and their environmental implications.
I think it is great that Aritzia uses recycled polyester in their fabrics and it really shows they are making an effort. I wish somehow they could also utilize recycled polyurethane as well. Although polyurethane has its problems, Aritzia at least acknowledges them and mentions that they are trying to do something about the issue through their collaboration with micro-plastic research. I wish Aritzia could substitute polyurethane for a more sustainable material, but I appreciate their transparency over the environmental concerns regarding micro-plastics. Overall, it is apparent that Aritzia has made an effort, however there is still room for improvement.
Aritzia complies with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act in upholding human rights and labor laws. The company developed its own Aritzia Supplier Code of Conduct using the international Bill of Human Rights and the ILO Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as a foundation. They enforce policies to protect their workers from human trafficking, slave labor, and child labor. Aritzia says they dedicate a whole team to preventing and identifying risks and wrong doings in the supply chain. The company also issues independent auditing companies like Elevate and Impactt which include worker interviews as a standard. One shortcoming is that Aritzia only audits their 80 finished good suppliers and not any of their material suppliers or manufacturers. Aritzia has 120 suppliers of fabrics and 40 suppliers of trims around the world. Without auditing these suppliers, there could be some major working violations slipping through the cracks. The company states its goal to expand into auditing suppliers in 2020, but has no update to if they actually have done so. Additionally, Aritzia makes no mention of enforcing a minimum wage so there is a good chance some of their workers along their supply chain could be exploited and unfairly compensated. The company does enforce annual training programs in human rights, human trafficking, and forced labor which is good to see that Aritzia cares about educating its employees. Overall, in regards to labor and the production of their clothing, Aritzia seems to be just doing the bare minimum required by the law. They lack transparency in terms of what the manufacturing process is like, what machinery is used, and their energy use in the production process by offering no information. Additionally, there is nothing on their page about if their packaging is sustainable, which I am going to assume is not. The page on the website is long and descriptive, but really lacks substance in what the company is actually doing which is not enough.
Overall, I think Aritzia is a company that does really try to make an effort to be sustainable, but just has a lot of shortcomings. I would not say that they are necessarily greenwashing, because they recognized a lot of areas where they have fallen short. Outside of just looking at the Melina Pant, Aritzia has implemented a lot of other measures for some of their other products to become more sustainable. For example, Aritzia has joined the Better Cotton initiative and made 57% of their cotton more sustainable- far surpassing their goal of 50% for the year. In their stores, 95% of them have energy-efficient LEDs and for every unit of energy purchased they purchase the equivalent in Renewable Energy Credits. As for the end of product life, Aritzia works with Debrand, which converts used clothing unable to sell or donate into insulation or car-seat stuffing. Additionally, Aritzia is dedicated to diversity, equality, and inclusion and invests $1 million into their company’s program. They have donated $100,000 to BLM and require training in systematic racism, racial inequality, and social injustices for all employees. Aritzia has also partnered with Stonewall Community Foundation to support the LGBTQIA2S+ community and strengthen themselves as a queer ally. To me, Aritzia has made an effort to address a variety of environmental and social concerns in a fairly effective manner. One can appreciate their intersectional approach and how they have plans implemented for throughout the product life from sourcing, manufacturing, and waste. The problem with Aritzia is that they are selectively transparent- they offer a lot of information when they are doing things well, but not always for what they fall short on. In terms of manufacturing their products, they offer no information of how they are made, the machinery, and about energy/water consumption. I think Aritzia still has a lot of work to do, especially in terms of transparency. They are not at all perfect, but they have started down a path towards becoming a sustainable company.