** American Eagle Outfitters is one the best-known places for Gen-Z’s to get cute jeans and clothes for reasonable prices. I have long been a fan of American Eagle Outfitters’ commitment to showcasing all different types of bodies of and skin tones in their advertising (Aerie was the first major chain to announce they wouldn’t use retouched images of models), but I have been unable to fully support them because they are somewhat of a fast fashion brand. While they aren’t as environmentally irresponsible as some companies, until the last few years I had yet to see them make a commitment to sustainability. And now? It’s finally here. American Eagle Outfitter’s “Real Good” initiative is slowly being integrated into the creation of all their products - including their newest line of jeans. While the company still has a long way to go in incorporating their “Real Good” standards into their whole product line, they have made remarkable progress thus far.
American Eagle Outfitters has made a commitment to source 100% of their cotton, polyester, and nylon more sustainably by 2023. I like this goal because it is specific and in the near future, unlike the goals of many retailers. Sourcing “more sustainably” means that they are committed to sourcing only recycled or organic cotton, recycled nylon, and recycled polyester for their “Real Good” product line. Additionally, they have committed to sourcing 100% of their viscose and rayon fibers from non-endangered forests. By recycling materials from their unsold or unusable products, in addition to holding trade-in events where people can recycle their old jeans, American Eagle is giving their products a second life and not being needlessly wasteful. This means that if you decide to buy a pair of “Real Good” jeans, you can be sure that the materials in the jeans you’re buying are not only cute, but good for the planet. Fair warning, however, that only about a third of their jeans are currently made using “Real Good” standards, so make sure to check the label before you buy.
he normal processes used to color denim those awesome shades of blue are extremely water-intensive and liberal in their use of harsh chemical dyes. American Eagle is aiming to reduce the impact of this high-waste process through water use reduction and recycling programs. According to their website, their 2030 goals include reducing their water use by 30% and recycling at least 50% of their water, but that’s not what I wanted to highlight. Unlike many other companies, American Eagle Outfitters provides data on how they are doing so far with those goals: they have already reduced the water use per jean by 14% and the amount of water recycled by 24%, which according to them has saved over one billion gallons of water over the last 8 years (the program was launched in 2013). In regards to their supply chain, American Eagle has also incorporated a third-party environmental impact tracking system in their laundries, mills, and factories to assess their impact and take steps towards reducing their emissions. While this is promising, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have taken many of those steps yet. Additionally, many of their plants are overseas, so they have long supply chains. That is definitely the most unsustainable part of their “How It’s Made” and the reason I have lowered their rating, despite their great water-use efforts . Overall I think that as far as jeans go, the processes used to make these particular jeans are more efficient than many other “cheap” jeans you can buy at big chains. They are still not perfect, but they are great when you compare them to other retailers in a similar price range. If you can’t afford to buy more expensive all-organic/recycled sustainable-to-the-core jeans, I recommend going with these ones.
** I applaud American Eagle for their transparency as related to sharing their real progress toward their 2030 sustainability goals; it’s not something I see from a lot of retail companies. Their goals are far-reaching in that they include every part of their production - sourcing, supply chain, and end-of-life recyclability - and they use third parties to ensure they are accurately measuring and meeting the standards they have set for themselves. Compared to other companies who are similarly situated in terms of price and products, they are far and away the best I’ve seen at transparently sharing not only their goals, but also the steps they are taking to get there and their progress towards those goals so far. However, most of their plants are still based abroad, where labor laws are much more lax than here in the United States. I have not found any evidence that they employ child labor practice or unsafe working conditions, and I do feel it is a priority for them - part of the third-party tracking they participate in measures worker health and conditions. This data is not shared on their website, but if they are tracking it like they track other data in their factories, I am hopeful that this means they care and are taking it seriously.