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, 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 – How Ethical is Banana Republic?
Transparency Rating: 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 Rating: 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 Rating: 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 Rating: 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 Rating: 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.
Summary: Is Banana Republic Ethical and Sustainable?
Overall Score: 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.
Is Banana Republic Fast Fashion?
The short answer is yes. But like many things in fashion, it’s complicated.
Fashion brands like Banana Republic weren’t originally what we would consider fast fashion. Fast fashion brands are those that drop new collections rapidly (increasing the number of fashion seasons from 2 per year to anywhere up to 365) and that drive overconsumption of fashion. These brands encourage us to shop fashion at a rate that’s not sustainable for the planet, and are typically the worst offenders of environmental and human rights abuses.
Brands like Banana Republic and their parent company, Gap, have evolved to be more and more like fast fashion, in order to compete with brands like Zara and H&M for your attention. On 4/2/2023 you could find over 500 new styles on Banana Republic’s website.
Looking for Ethical Alternatives to Banana Republic?
We actually wrote a whole article about that.
For even more good brands check out our 90+ certified brands, all of which pass our criteria, and all of which will inspire you to believe fashion really can be more sustainable.
Lily Rosen Marvin studies English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. When she’s not writing about sustainable fashion, Lily can be found hiking, reading outside, or binge-watching 30 Rock.