Everlane has a lot of work to do if they want to live up to the ethical image that they have worked so hard to craft. Their largest claim is radical transparency but they lack transparency in a lot of areas, specifically sourcing. They have also had problems in their cooperate teams with discrimination and union-busting claims. I would like to see an expansion of accountability and concrete goals for the future. As for the ReCotton tee, I am a fan of the product itself. The design is classic and the material is biodegradable. In all, my research into this tee left with a lot of great positives and pretty awful negatives. In the end, it is up to the buyer to prioritize what values are most important to them, and to decide if the information Everlane provides about how their products are made is enough, and if the steps they are taking to combat discrimination feel genuine.
The Everlane ReCotton tee is 100% cotton, 60% of that being recycled cotton (recycles yarns from industrial or post-consumer cotton waste) and 40% new. I like the choice of a plant-based fiber opposed to anything synthetic, because it ensures that the shirt is biodegradable. Cotton can often be farmed unsustainably though. If the same fields are used again and again for cotton (as many are) this can lead to soil degradation. Non-organic cotton can be treated with pesticides that can contaminate waterways, and currently it does not seem that the ReCotton tee is organic. I would fault Everlane for this, but on their Environmental Initiatives page they do pledge to use all certified organic cotton by 2023 and admit to the harm that non-organic cotton causes, so I was pleased to see that accountability and goal-setting.
One aspect that I really like about how this product is made is it’s design. It’s a plain white tee-shirt, pretty much as basic as it gets. It’s totally safe from falling out of trend, and so a buyer will feel good wearing year after year. Everlane’s About Us webpage also claims that all of their products are “made to last” which is another aspect that adds to the longevity of this tee-shirt. I cannot personally attest to the quality of the ReCotton shirt specifically, but I have purchased other things from Everlane in the past that proved to be very high quality. One review did mention that this shirt can shrink in the dryer though, and shrinkage would lead to the end of this shirts life cycle, so that is definitely not a positive. Everlane is very transparent about which factories they use, and actually list what products are made where. The ReCotton tees are made at the Nobland Vietnam Co. factory in Ho Chi Min Vietnam, that Everlane claims is known for its “technical expertise and progressive culture.” It undergoes yearly audits (by ARCHE and/or Intertek, an independent and impartial auditing service) to ensure that it lives up to Everlane’s standards for sustainability, health & safety standards, labor conditions, fair wages, energy use, carbon emissions, water use & treatment, and recycling programs. I would have liked to have seen more specific statements on what exactly Everlane’s standards for sustainability are as far as carbon emissions, textile wastes, chemical use, etc. Everlane's distribution centre had reached its goal of keeping 100% of its waste out of landfills, so that is a positive. Overall, Everlane just needs a bit more transparency and goal-setting in the “how it's made”
As far as over-seas workers in their production factories, Everlane is decently transparent about how these employees are treated. As aforementioned, they list the individual factories they work with and audit them frequently to ensure they live up to Everlane's standards for health & safety, labor conditions, and fair wages. I would like to see more concrete explanations of what these standards are, but Everlane's choice to list the individual factories is a step that many other companies have yet to make in transparency. One area where they have a total lack of transparency is in their material sourcing. They have no information on where they source their materials from, and therefore provide no information about the working conditions of those harvesting the cotton that goes into their ReCotton tee. Additionally, Everlane became the subject of major scrutiny in 2020 when claims of union-busting, racial discrimination and size-inclusivity problems arose. There were numerous reports of POC employees being treated unfairly, and members of their customer service department claimed that Everlane laid them off in an attempt to stop them from unionizing. These charges were dropped as the layoffs coincided with the pandemic and they were unable to prove that they were targeted, but I think they are still worth mention. Everlane needs major corporate restructuring to make sure all employees are treated fairly and feel comfortable. Their DEI webpage shows that they have made an effort to combat these internal problems, with funds dedicated to anti-racism training, inclusive hiring practices, and donations to the ACLU. Since (at the time this review is being written) this scandal happened so recently, only time will be able to tell if these steps are just reactionary, or a genuine effort to restructure and redefine the culture of the company.