How Ethical Is Reebok?

Known for its innovative athletic apparel and footwear, Adidas-owned global sportswear giant Reebok has been around for over a century.

Reebok is a sportswear pioneer—it developed the first spiked running shoe and the first athletic shoe designed specifically for women, as well as being the official sponsor for the likes of the UFC and CrossFit.

The question is, is the brand as good for the environment, workers, and animals as it is for athletes? Read on to find out how it rates in all three categories so you can decide if it’s time for a Reebok rebound.

Environmental Impact

Reebok’s environment rating is ‘It’s A Start’. It uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled materials, which is a good step, and has conducted research with industry bodies on the impact of microplastics. While it has set an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations, it does not have a target for its supply chain, where it would generate the majority of its emissions.

The main area for improvement is the use of eco-friendly materials. Improving this would help Reebok receive a better rating. The brand uses a great deal of leather in its products, and while it does come from tanneries that are certified gold or silver by the Leather Working Group, leather is still very damaging to the environment, workers, and animals. Perhaps Adidas can start implementing some of its more sustainable materials into Reebok’s range. This could include recycled polyester, recycled rubber, organic cotton, and recycled ocean plastics.

Labour Conditions

When it comes to workers, Reebok has once again received a rating of ‘It’s A Start’, with a score of 61-70% in the Fashion Transparency Index. Some of its supply chain is certified by FLA Workplace Code of Conduct including all of the final stage of production, and it publishes detailed information about suppliers, their policies, audits, and remediation processes. It also discloses policies to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence Reebok ensures payment of a living wage in most of its supply chain, which brings its score down. With very few worker empowerment initiatives in place, Reebok misses out on a higher rating in this category. By ensuring workers have access to important workplace initiatives like unions and effective grievance mechanisms, and actually paying a living wage across its supply chain, Reebok could see this score improve.

Animal Welfare

Reebok is also rated ‘It’s A Start’ for the animals. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. While the brand does not use fur, angora, or other exotic animal skins or hair, it does use wool. It does, however, come from non-mulesed sheep! The main issue here is that it uses leather, and there is no evidence it traces any animal products to the first stage of production. With devastating effects on animals, workers, and the environment, the leather industry is simply not sustainable. Reebok should consider investing in some of the many innovative, eco-friendly leather alternatives out there. This would help the brand do right by our animal friends, while earning the title of a more ethical company.

Overall Rating: It’s A Start

All in all, Reebok is making a start in all three categories, and has achieved an ‘It’s A Start’ rating overall based our own research. With parent company Adidas receiving numerous awards for its sustainability targets and labour conditions, the brands stand out in the often shockingly unethical athletic apparel industry.

Reebok itself has some areas to focus on moving forward. For the environment, it should push to set and achieve more environmental sustainability goals. For people, it can ensure worker empowerment and living wages throughout the supply chain. And for the animals, it can consider ethical alternatives to leather. With these changes, Reebok could see itself shoot to the top in ethical athletic wear.

See the rating.

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