Monday 12 November 2012

Rankabrand and a Paradigm Shift.

A paradigm shift is an event that changes the way that you thought about something. It can be quite a shocking thing to happen, as your preconceptions and prejudices lose their solid footing.

Last night, I came across a link posted by our old friends at Ethletic, the ethical shoe manufacturer. They had come close to the top in the rankings for footwear in the Rankabrand listings, a pretty solid judge of a brand's sustainability. The ranking is based on issues like child labour, fair wages for workers, environmentally friendly leather tanning, eco-friendly materials, banning hazardous and toxic chemicals and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Ethletic's great showing in the lists wasn't such a surprise--nor was the fact that number one was Veja, award-winning Dutch innovators of eco-shoe-wear. No, the big surprise was at number 4, a slot taken by Nike-owned rock-n-roll shoe icon Converse.

I had been under the impression that Converse had a dreadful record on sustainability. Not the case, apparently. Which means that I have been wandering around shoe shops for the last year sneering at the display of Chuck Taylor's fine shoes for no good reason.

Worse still, fine English brands like Clark's and Dr. Martens are waaaay down the lists. This is, to put it mildly, discombobulating. Which just goes to show, you should never rest on your preconceptions. You could be in for a nasty shock.

The Rankabrand site is well worth a browse, just to see how your favourite brands stack up on sustainability.


  1. As ever though the devil is in the detail. They seem to have scored highly mainly because they are canvas rather than leather.

    However it's the labour standards section that gives most reason to pause for thought. Just have a code of conduct is not really enough, it's how well it it implemented. It's well known now that simply auditing against a code does not really deliver any great improvements for workers (even when audits are legit and not a result of faked information or bribed auditors.)

    In this case though even the Rankabrand info points out the following:

    "hours of overtime is not specified and overtime may be mandatory....mentioning of minimum and industry wage, not living wage"

    So Converse workers could be forced to do overtime at wages that are not enough to live on.

  2. That's a very good point, Cal. It can be close to impossible to accurately audit supply chains at a global level, and it's very easy to fudge or simply not give out the numbers.

    Anyone can get caught in the trap: just look at Greenpeace, who whilst campaigning about toxic chemicals in clothes, had to pull their own line of textile merchandise when they found out they contained some of the same chemicals!