Is Everlane’s Radical Transparency A Greenwashing Campaign?

Is Everlane’s Radical Transparency A Greenwashing Campaign?

In 2018, Everlane’s self-proclaimed radical transparency earned them the title of one of the worlds most innovative companies by Fast Company. They were the first to make headlines for opening up their supply chain to the world by providing factory names, cost, and margins in easy to read graphics. Their radical transparency campaign is a prime example of how a large marketing budget, combined with one small effort, will label a brand sustainable for what seems like an eternity. On the surface, Everalane looks to be transparent, but how transparent are they? Are they radical?

How Transparent Is Everlane’s Radical Transparency?

Source: Everlane

It only took a few minutes of browsing Everlane’s website to find a flaw in their price transparency claim.  The graphic above represents the costs for both The ReCashmere Crew and The Heavyweight Cashmere Hoodie. The issue is that the Heavyweight retails for $160 making these costs false. Even when comparing two products of the same price, the costs claim to be identical down to the penny, which is impossible. You will find more inconsistencies throughout the site, and it’s clear that Everlane no longer keeps up with providing their customers with costs and retail markups. This is not very radical. 

Source: Everlane. An example of a staged factory photo. Have you ever been this happy at work?

Their factory descriptions are well written and provide photographs, including many unstaged photos. Having been to factories overseas, the candid photos are a great representation of the inside of an ethical Asian factory. However, the staged photos are entirely unnecessary and misleading. But again, they claim to be Radical, and their descriptions and pretty photographs are not doing enough. For example, Patagonia provides significantly more information about their supply chain and the actual addresses of their manufacturers downloadable to an excel sheet. That’s radical!

The Transparency Does Not Extend To Their Employees 

Citing poor pay, toxic work environment, and little benefits, Everlane’s employees attempted to form a union. The company claims to

“reveal the true costs behind all of our products—from materials to labor to transportation”

Meanwhile, the company neglects to expose the real cost of their corporate laborers. Claiming that a union would decrease transparency, Everlane has struck down the union effort. Only after the news went viral, Everlane admitted they were wrong and will do a better job. However, they failed to make a public plan, which would be in line with their transparency goals.

Their treatment of employees is just another example of their lack of radical transparency. 

Selling Nothing More Than Idea 

At over $100mm in sales,  Everlane does a great job selling the idea of radical transparency but fails to deliver on actually being radical. There is a lot hidden in their supply chain, and there are many more transparent brands out there. The concept of transparent pricing is already outdated as the general public knows that DTC brands cut out the middle man. The actual costs are irrelevant to most. 

Is this an example of greenwashing? It’s complicated. On the one hand, Everlane uses a sustainable concept (transparency), fails to deliver on many of its claims, and exploits the claim for marketing purposes. On the other, Everlane is still more transparent compared to the majority of its peers. They may not be radical but at the least they are transparent. 

In 2020, radical transparency needs to go beyond just providing markups and factory summaries. To claim radical transparency, Everlane needs to provide customers with information about CO2 emissions, dyestuff chemicals used, and wasted fabric due to quality. This might be taking it too far for most, but that is what radical transparency needs to be in 2020. If not, just call it transparency, and most will find no issues. 

Jon K.

Jon Kirsner, MBA, MSBA, is a supply chain professional with a decade of experience in sustainable manufacturing. His industry experience has exposed him to the truth of the sustainable fashion and consumer goods industries. He does not write as a journalist but as an industry expert and passionate advocate.

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