Everlane is closing in on B Corp certification, according to the California fashion label built on the premise of “radical transparency.”
The news comes as the San Francisco brand’s second annual impact report details an accelerating transition to sustainable inputs. Released on Earth Day, the report indicates that Everlane, which says it should be a B Corp by quarter’s end, spent much of last year developing a supply chain to source eco-friendlier raw materials.
“We’re really excited to share a lot of progress that we’ve been able to make, specifically around the adoption of preferred fibers and materials,” sustainability director Katina Boutis told Sourcing Journal. Given that roughly 60 percent of its greenhouse gas (GHG) impact is driven by materials, Everlane has been focused on making “pretty massive transitions” to recycled, responsible and organic inputs, she added
Everlane is trying to derive all of its inputs from organic, renewable and responsible sources by 2025. To aid in this goal, it has added three material certifications—the Organic Content Standard (OCS), the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), and the Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS)—to its existing Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) brand certification, establishing greater traceability across those fibers.
The brand has transitioned to using 75 percent certified organic, recycled or regenerative cotton, up from 66 percent in 2021. Nearly all materials (96 percent) containing polyester and nylon are now made from Global Recycled Standard-certified recycled fibers. Everlane is still working to find 100-percent recycled versions of trims and elastane. A forestry policy partnership with CanopyStyle guides the brand’s man-made cellulosic sourcing.
Everlane had aimed to transition to 100-percent organic cotton by the end of 2023, up from 75 percent at the end of 2022, but it’s had trouble sourcing greater volumes in a competitive global market, Boutis said. Though prized for its quality and sustainability profile, organic cotton still makes up just 1 percent of the world’s cotton output, she said, describing how buyers “fighting for” a very small amount of fiber is leading to “a lot of price volatility.” Meanwhile, regulations including the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) in the U.S. and supply chain due diligence legislation in the E.U., is driving brands to source cotton, and especially the organic stuff, beyond China.
While Everlane continues to increase its organic cotton uptake, it has looked for alternatives such as recycled cotton. Earlier this month, it launched the low-carbon Tread-Bare sneaker, which featured a 100-percent recycled cotton upper, natural rubber sole and recycled plastic trims. “We want to use more and more recycled input but there is the fine balance of maximizing the amount of recycled content you can have, while also maintaining the quality and durability and longevity that you need in a product,” Boutis said. “We want them to have long lifetimes with the buyer, and then maybe even second and third lifetimes with someone else after that.”
It’s looking into other channels for better-for-the-world cotton. Everlane recently attained Organic Content Standard (OCS) certification, and has created a program to verify “in-conversion organic cotton” from farms engaged in the process of becoming certified organic. “It takes about three years or more for a farm to make a transition from conventional practices to organic, so it’s quite a long time where farmers are investing and they don’t necessarily have a specific market that they can sell into,” Boutis said. Everlane said the program aims to give farmers a way to sell their crops as they are moving through the certification process. “We’re trying a few different things to develop a more responsible portfolio, instead of just focusing on one fiber that is challenged in availability,” she said.
The company last year introduced its first product lines made with regenerative material, in the form of traceable regenerative cotton. “Organic materials have a much lower emissions factor compared to conventional cotton, and that’s similar for regenerative materials,” Boutis said. Everlane’s work with several farming groups to begin sourcing regenerative cotton effort will continue this year. The brand’s partnership with the Rodale Institute produced a capsule collection of graphic T-shirts and beanies.
Addressing material impacts has helped the brand move closer to its goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. So far, it has achieved a 20 percent reduction since the baseline measurement year of 2019. It also achieved its 2021 goal of streamlining its supplier base “That was a very big strategic priority for us,” Boutis said. “It has made a lot of the work we’re doing a lot more aligned and more efficient, which helps for a lot of different reasons, but particularly for sustainability.”
Everlane currently works with 48 Tier 1 factories across 11 countries and 62,900 workers, and 72 percent of those partners have social and environmental certifications that go beyond local laws and industry standards. About two-fifths of those partners currently use renewable energy sources at their facilities. The company has mapped 100 percent of its Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and has achieved 80-percent visibility into Tier 3, which encompasses raw material processing operations like yarn-spinning.
“We’re focusing on that kind of like yarn-formation to wet-processing stage and trying to engage with our suppliers and work with them on understanding and benchmarking their own electricity and energy performance and then designing reduction efforts in tandem with them,” Boutis said. “It not only helps our own footprint, but it also helps their entire operation, which will have impacts for all of the rest of their clients and the rest of the industry.”