How Ethical is Converse?

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Converse is one of America’s most iconic footwear companies. Providing people around the world with sneakers for over 100 years, the brand is considered cool and classic – but do their ethics match their image? Read on to find out if you should keep repping connies or find more ethical alternatives.

Environmental Impact: It’s A Start

Converse, owned by Nike, have set some ambitious environmental goals in recent years. Currently, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition member uses a low proportion of eco-friendly materials including organic and recycled cotton and polyester. They minimise off-cuts in parts of the manufacturing process and have a waste reduction strategy for most of their supply chain.

Parent company Nike has set an ambitious Greenhouse Gas (GHG) target, that includes Converse, to procure 100% renewable for their strategic assets. They predict this will reduce their operational emissions by more than 50% by 2025. Whilst Nike lead the way with their GHG target, they lag behind on minimising their water impact despite moderate improvements in tracing their supply chain to identify whether they operate in water-stressed basins.Converse Pride Collection

While Converse do comply with a Restricted Substances List guided by the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group (ZDHC), they have made no commitment to eliminate hazardous chemicals, and their chemicals policy has attracted criticism from Greenpeace’s Detox Catwalk campaign. Despite being committed to completely phasing out polyvinyl chloride, Nike was the only brand to completely fail in all three of the categories assessed by Greenpeace.

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Labour Conditions: It’s A Start

Converse’s labour rating is based on the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report. This report examines areas such as transparency, how well the brand knows their suppliers, auditing and worker empowerment. While the brand may have received an A+ for their Supplier Code of Conduct and trace most of their supply chain, the good news ends there. They have minimal worker empowerment initiatives (D +) and received the bottom score (F) in relation to implementing a living wage or improving wages across their supply chain.Converse Chucks

While they are an FLA Workplace Code of Conduct certified company, the fine print says members “shall pay at least minimum wage or the appropriate prevailing wage” to their workers. But minimum wage does not equal a living wage, especially in high-risk countries where fast fashion brands outsource their production.

Animal Welfare: It’s A Start

While Converse use leather without specifying sources, they have banned fur, and do not use wool, angora, down or any exotic animal hair or skin. At Good On You, we care about our furred, feathered and scaled friends and take their treatment into consideration when rating a brand. To learn more about animal welfare issues in the fashion industry, check out this article for everything you should know before you buy.The Converse #OneStar

The Verdict: ‘It’s A Start’ GoY-Ratings_3

We have given Converse the overall rating of ‘it’s a start’ based on the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report and our own research. While the brand has made a decent start in each category, it has a way to go before achieving a higher score. For such a profitable company, there really is no excuse not to implement a living wage or pay more attention to the treatment of animals in their supply chain.

You don’t have to go barefoot while waiting for Converse to catch up, though! There are ethical alternatives out there that will really put a spring in your step, with Etiko taking the lead for sneakers.

Etiko GoY-Ratings_5

Etiko Black and White Low Rise Sneakers_Insta

This small family-owned business has won several sustainability awards, and boast a range of streetwise kicks that are 100% Fairtrade and vegan-friendly. With low and high top sneakers in a range of colours, you can’t go wrong with this brand that encourages you to “Wear No Evil”.


For more sneaker options check out these 9 ecochic sneaker brands and our ethical alternatives to 5 iconic shoes.

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Feature image: Converse Australia. Additional images via @converse_anz and @etiko_fairtrade.

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