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September 18, 2020

How Ethical is Banana Republic?

How Ethical is Banana Republic

Over the last five weeks, we’ve been digging into some of the biggest names in fast fashion, helping you sort out what’s real progress and what’s meant to greenwash away consumer guilt.

Following our extensive sustainable brand criteria, powered by Remake, each brand receives scores for transparency, maker well-being, environmental sustainability, material sustainability, and leadership. In order for a brand to be considered sustainable, they need to score at least 50 points. We’ll go over the good, the bad, and where there is room for improvement.

This week we finish off the #fiveweeksoffails series with a staple of modern fashion: Banana Republic.

As one of the larger members of Gap Inc., Banana Republic operates an impressive 700 stores worldwide. Known for its clean and simple design, Banana Republic has become a go-to for many young professionals looking to spruce up their wardrobe.

In response to growing concerns about fast fashion, Banana Republic has launched its Better Republic movement. The launch included sustainability goals, a clothing recycling program, and of course, a product line.

While this line may look promising, is it really enough to make Banana Republic a sustainable brand? Let’s get into it.

THE RESULTS

Transparency: 8/15

Banana Republic still has some work to do when it comes to transparency.

Most of the information for Banana Republic was housed under the Gap Inc. website. While this allowed for us to gather more information about Gap companies as a whole, it wasn’t entirely clear how much of that information applied to Banana Republic.

Based on the Gap Inc. information, we were able to find a detailed factory list, a collaborative program with makers to improve their working conditions, and a commitment to assessing their subcontractors to ensure safe working conditions

The first step Banana Republic could take to improve this score is to add more information to their sustainability page. That would make it easier for consumers to understand their specific policies, rather than Gap Inc’s policies. They could also do more to disclose information about conditions in their factories such as wages or safety risks facing makers. 

Maker Well-being: 9/33

Banana Republic has made some admirable steps when it comes to their code of conduct. They’ve also launched an initiative called Raise Every Voice that’s meant to educate low-income female employees on “communication, problem-solving, decision making, time and stress management, health and safety, financial literacy, and more.” Their site claims they are on track to educate one million women by 2022. 

Much like many of the other large fast fashion companies, Banana Republic has an issue with scale. To get full credit in many of these categories, a company has to be instituting positive wellness programs at over half of its facilities. While Raise Every Voice sounds like a great program, it is unclear if it is present at the majority of Banana Republic factories.

Here are a few ideas that could help Banana Republic boost its score: publicly demonstrating an understanding of the labor risks associated with their factories, clarify how often their facilities are assessed for safety violations, and ensure that wellness programs like Raise Every Voice are in place in the majority of their factories. 

Environmental Sustainability: 12/33

The highlights: Banana Republic clearly illustrates their sustainability goals on their website along with a tracker to show the company’s progress. They have partnered with thredUp to create an upcycling program in attempts to reduce clothing waste. They also have a clothing rental program that allows people to expand their closet without buying a bunch of new clothes.

The room for improvement: as always, more transparency would be a great step. Banana Republic could disclose the amount of water used in production as this would put their sustainability goals in perspective. They could also disclose CO2 emissions and clearly demonstrate a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainable Raw Materials: 3/14

Banana Republic is on track to reach 50% sustainable fibers by 2023. They’re also aiming to reach 100% sustainable cotton in the next three years.

So, while we can’t give them full credit yet, we are glad to see they’re moving in the right direction. If they can reach their goals, we will be happy to give them another look.

Leadership: 0/5

This is a difficult category to score points in. Even many of our most sustainable brands struggle to get full credit.

That being said, Banana Republic falls far behind our most sustainable brands. Their “sustainable” clothing is such a small portion of their products that it’s impossible for it to make meaningful change. They’re also still promoting the mass consumerism that feeds into fast fashion.

Overall: 32/100

Banana Republic fails to meet the 50 points required to be considered a sustainable brand. While we appreciate their environmental goals, their current business practices fall short of true sustainability. 

Want to see more brand reviews? Check out our other brands of #fiveweeksoffails: Uniqlo, J Crew, Express, and Zara.

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2 Comments on “How Ethical is Banana Republic?

Libby Newell
November 9, 2020 at 7:18 am

Thanks for the above info. I’m feeling pretty fired up about the re-release of the RBG necklace right now. I have asked BR in a few ways (on Instagram) if it is ethically made. No answer. It is so frustrating to have so many women jumping on buying this necklace so they can dress up like RBG.
As lovely as it is that Banana Republic is donating all of the proceeds of this collar, are women being oppressed to make a necklace to support women to not be oppressed?

Reply
Garik
November 11, 2020 at 4:50 pm

Libby, thanks for sharing! This is a great question and it’s awesome that reached out to the brand to let them know and to ask questions. Fashion Revolution said:
“I was told by an industry insider that for every person who asked a brand #whomademyclothes on social media, the brands took it as representing 10,000 other people who thought the same way, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it.” (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/interview-series-carry-somers-founder-fashion-revolution)
So keep exercising your voice!
-Garik

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