Reformation is diligent in its efforts to be transparents about their sustainability practices and goals. They have an extensive sustainability report each quarter that is easy to read and access. I appreciate their efforts to promote conscious consumerism and informing the consumer about the amount of water, carbon, and waste each product purchase saves. However, they do have some areas that they could improve upon their transparency and thus consumer trust.
While jeans are notoriously known to use a lot of water in their production methods, Reformation cites that these jeans result in 1.3 gallons of water savings. The jeans are made with 60% organic cotton and 40% TENCEL Lyocell. TENCEL Lyocell is known as one of the most environmentally sustainable materials because it is created from natural plant materials. Further it requires less energy and water than cotton to produce and is biodegradable. It comes from wood that is solely from controlled sources, which means consumers can confidently know that the pulp source is not threatened by over harvesting or land degradation. Additionally, there are no pesticides or irrigation used. Finally, the wood pulp is made into fiber utilizing a closed loop production process, thus minimizing waste. Organic cotton also has its benefits in comparison to conventional cotton. These include ensuring that toxic chemicals are not used when growing organic cotton, reducing air pollution and uses 88% less water than conventional cotton. It requires less irrigation, saving water and energy, as 80% of organic cotton receives its necessary water from rain. Land practices for organic cotton sites also promote soil quality through crop rotations and natural pesticide controls.
While it is true that jeans waste a lot of energy and water due to the materials that they are composed of, Reformation does a good job at ensuring they use the most sustainable materials. Therefore, they deserve a rating of 2.4/3 planets.
While the direct process itself for this specific pair of jeans is not outlined, on Reformation’s website, they have a sustainability report in which they disclose their sustainability goals and progress. They discuss that they are working with their partners, dye houses, and tanneries to make sure they are reducing use of chemicals, water and energy. 67% of their dyers, printers and tanneries have obtained a clean chemical certification. However, this does show that there is still room for improvement. According to their website, this specific pair of jeans production resulted in 14 pounds of carbon dioxide savings and 16 pounds of waste savings. That is most definitely commendable. However, I do think they should be more clear about their specific practices.
I commend Reformation for having over 50% of the cutting and sewing locally done in Los Angeles, where also many of their products are locally manufactured in their local factory. Yet, when they do source outside of Los Angeles, whether nationally or abroad, they ensure that the same sustainable practices and materials are upheld. For their dying and finishing process, they test their products using the Restricted Substance List to confidently confirm their products are safe. As these jeans were made in one of their four factories located in Turkey, I hope that this factory met the green standard: meaning that it was up to par with the standards. 66% of their vendors currently do. Therefore, if it received a lower rating, this could impact the sustainability of these jeans.
On Reformation’s website, it references these pants being “sustainably made in Turkey.” Reformation lists they do ensure their employees and those who they source from are treated right. In fact, they provide health benefits to all of their full time employees. This benefit extends to their manufacturing team, so I would hope that means that the workers in Turkey receive this benefit. Listed on their website is a goal to have 100% of their team meet or exceed living wage by 2020 (yet this was disrupted by COVID). However, they have shifted their priority to saving the largest quantity of jobs they can. Currently, 74% of Ref employees meet the living wage of where they live.
While it is frustrating to hear that their goal has been set aside while they deal with the impacts of COVID, I do think it must be recognized that they are working to attain high quality care for their employees.