How Ethical Is Eddie Bauer? All You Need to Know

How Ethical Is Eddie Bauer? All You Need to Know

Dennis Kamprad

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Eddie Bauer has truly made a name for itself, from having over 400 outdoor wear stores to uncountable loyal consumers worldwide. The more than 100-year old company claims to provide quality and inclusive outdoor gear for the community. So we had to ask: How ethical is Eddie Bauer?

Eddie Bauer is a global brand that can be considered unethical. Reasons include their lack of transparency for their practices, ethics, and their unaccountable actions. However, the brand does show importance in diversity and inclusion, which can be considered a first step to becoming more ethical.

Finding information on Eddie Bauer’s ethics was undoubtedly not easy, but it is possible. And we’ve found all the information that you need to make your informed decision on the actual ethics of Eddie Bauer. In this article, you’ll learn all about what they publicly share, consumer feedback, codes of conduct, their history with ethics, and more. 

Eddie Bauer: From 20 Years Old Outdoorsman to Global Staple Brand

Founded by Eddie Bauer in 1920, at just 20 years old, Eddie Bauer named a brand after himself and opened his first store in downtown Seattle. Bauer was a sports outdoorsman and an entrepreneur. The first thing he sold was restrung tennis rackets with a money-back guarantee – he was truly ahead of his time.

  • Eddie Bauer (EB) eventually ventured into outdoor equipment and apparel and has been a staple brand ever since. They have patented a variety of items, including the first quilted down jacket and badminton shuttles.
  • For over eight years, the current CEO of EB has been Michael Egeck. Egeck was CEO of other well-known sports outdoor brands such as Nike, The North Face, and Columbia. All are having a questionable history of unethical fast-fashion practices.
  • In a strategic move to save the brand from bankruptcy, EB was acquired by a private equity firm, Golden Gate Capital (GCC), in 2018. A new company called PSEB Group was established by GCC, where Eddie Bauer merged with the famous fast-fashion Californian brand, PacSun.

EB is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, with six more offices across America. And nowadays, you can locate almost 400 retail stores across the United States and Canada, Japan, and Germany. EB has also expanded to more than just outerwear to home and even baby goods. 

How Ethical Does Eddie Bauer Say They Are

Which Ethical Information Does Eddie Bauer Present to Us Consumers

As soon as you enter the Eddie Bauer homepage, you’ll be greeted with huge sale banners and a diverse group of models dressed in chic yet colorful apparel. EB does not explicitly mention ethics on their website, but we managed to find a sub-page called Be The Change.

This sub-page is a lengthy checklist of the things EB has done to promote “diversity, equity, and inclusion in their community and industry.” EB explains to us how they have established a dedicated committee called Be The Change, with their goal to be diverse, inclusive, and representative in the outdoor community

EB claims that they are working with all different types of people in the industry, from athletes, guides to corporate leaders and distribution center associates. This is a significant first step to ensuring (or at least showcasing) collaborative and ethical work practices. 

They have also included a page to acknowledge and recognize the indigenous lands that their stores are located on. This is an unusual move and is something that sets EB apart from other brands. EB admits that there is a lot of work to be done. 

However, they still fail to be transparent to address their workplace’s ethics and practices and how their products are made.

We appreciate the Be The Change movement and the indigenous land acknowledgment. Yet, we cannot help but think it sounds like a good marketing ploy and public relations scheme for EB. Especially in light of today’s current trend and need for inclusivity and representation. 

Even with that, we believe that inclusive and diverse practices like these should be the basic standard for everyone. Brands and companies should not be glorified when they follow these practices.

Which Ethical Practices Does Eddie Bauer Have in Place

With almost every big or small company or brand, you will find some sort of mandatory code of conduct and ethics for the employees and employers. 

EB does not make it easy for you to find their ethical practices. As we mentioned before, no ethics section can be found anywhere on their website. You would have to do a deep dive google search to encounter any ethical code of conduct or policy for EB – that’s a red flag for us. 

To our surprise, in our search quest, we managed to find two documents of EB’s policies: The Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and, from their EB sourcing website, Factory Workplace Code of Conduct

The Code of Business Conduct and Ethics was a 14-page document that included all the guidelines and rules to foster a responsible and ethical workplace for everyone.

  • It also had questions you should ask yourself if you are facing a moral dilemma. Questions such as “Is it the right thing to do?” and “Would I want to see this reported in the news, with my name and photo?”
  • If workers feel that they are in a hostile or unsafe environment or if they encounter an unethical situation, the document claims that workers can easily make a report. EB encourages workers to contact their 24-hour Ethics Helpline or make an anonymous report on their Ethics Helpline webpage.  

The Factory Workplace Code of Conduct is a short one-page document of EB’s stance and rules on ethical factory workplace practices. 

  • They claim that they have a strong stance against human rights issues and choose their business partners carefully.
  • Some rules we found interesting in their factory workplace practices include not employing forced labor such as prisons. Banning child labor and ensuring to establish sufficient wages and benefits. 

On paper, you can’t deny that there are definitely extensive codes of conduct and ethics and practices set in place at EB’s workplaces and factories. Whether EB, its employees, and business partners actively practice and are accountable for these policies is another question. 

Organizations Eddie Bauer Has Joined to Prove Their Ethics

Sure, EB may claim that they have their ethics in check, but what about certifications and partnerships from recognized and ethic-driven third-party organizations?

Firstly, EB proudly advertises their website about their commitment to manufacturing products from Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified and Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) materials. 

But what do RWS and RDS-certified mean exactly? RDS and RWS ensure that the wool, feathers, and down are obtained responsibly with the animals’ welfare in mind. So, without harming any animals in the process, practices such as live-plucking and force-feeding are prohibited.

EB is also a member of the Textile Exchange organization. This non-profit aims to set global standards for responsibility and integrity in textile practices, the very organization responsible for RDS and RWS. 

Before we are quick to applaud EB and the Textile Exchange for their fight in animal and textile ethics, let’s take a look at their board of members. The board includes the notoriously unethical brands, H&M and Amazon – another red flag. RDS has been criticized by activists and PETA for being a greenwashing tool and a flawed green practice to entice consumers. 

Greenwashing aside, EB has also signed a pledge, with 313 other companies, against the forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton production in their supply chain. This means that EB will be responsible for actively sourcing other ethical cotton alternatives for manufacturing their products. But what exactly are these other ethical sources that EB is using? We do not know. 

In PETA’s fight against angora abuse and exploitation in China, EB and 300 other huge brands, such as Adidas, Forever 21, H&M, have signed an agreement to ban selling Angora fur in their shops. While PETA itself at times has questionable ethics, this is still a commendable first step to reducing animal abuse. 

EB is also part of the Fair Labour Association (FLA). FLA is in charge of overseeing and monitoring labor practices in factories used by Reebok, Nike, and others. A quick Google search will show you that EB and FLA have seen many investigations and reports. However, these reports are mostly published before 2010. So it leaves you questioning the current findings of their practices. 

What Can Be Found About Eddie Bauer in the Media

However, If you’re like us and still not buying EB’s ethics charade of certifications and code of conducts, let’s have a look at what we can find outside their own reporting. 

According to Fashion Revolution’s annual Fashion Transparency Index, EB scores 5% for overall transparency. This score implies that EB discloses almost no or minimal information on their ethics and practices. Across the top 250 brands in the world, the average transparency score was a meager 23%. This indicates that all brands, including EB, have a long way to attain full transparency.

EB has also appeared in news articles for engaging with sweatshops and US prisons for slave labor to manufacture their goods. When interviewed by Outside Online on their practices and policies to address the labor practices, EB and many others refused to make any comments. 

EB’s silence on their practices and lack of transparency says much more than they might think. 

How Ethical Is the Business Model of Eddie Bauer

We Like Your Clothes, but Who’s Making Them?

EB pride themselves on their original apparel that stands the test of time. At the beginning of their venture, EB’s outdoor wear was proudly made in Seattle factories. With globalization, many brands, including EB, have turned to overseas and cheaper manufacturing to maximize their profits.

To be a truly ethical brand is to be transparent about your suppliers and the people who make the clothes. However, EB does not disclose any information about their suppliers on any of their official websites. 

We managed to find their Eddie Bauer Global Sourcing website in hopes they would give us some information on their sourcing and suppliers. However, the page has not been updated since 2019 and does not include any names of suppliers. Instead, it acts as a manual for vendors to obtain forms and policies.

According to Panjiva, an intelligent platform to analyze global trade exports and imports, EB has hundreds of shipments from China and Vietnam. A Bloomberg article further confirms and mentions the biggest producers of menswear in China are sold to EB. 

While we are unsure if these shipments stated on Panjiva include EB’s retail goods, it certainly does give us some clue as to who EB’s suppliers are. 

Overall, the secrecy of suppliers and vendors by ED raises a huge red flag for us in their ethical business practices.

Everything Wrong with Clearance Sales

You’ll be pleased to know that EB does not participate in monthly-subscriptions or VIP member-based purchases. Consumers do not have to commit to anything if they simply want to buy a down jacket or a sweater, unlike Fabletics VIP-membership schemes. 

Like any apparel brand, you will definitely encounter generous clearance or limited offer sales. On EB’s online store, you can get discounts of up to 70%! But, what’s wrong with clearance sales, you may ask. 

Some may argue that clearance sales are a good thing, ethical even. Consumers save clothes by filling up landfills and give them a second home. Sales could encourage and tell businesses what consumers would pay for and make other products that consumers might buy at a higher price. 

Sales also allow and support potential unethical brands to continue profiting from their unethical products through attractive sales and good marketing. Not forgetting that attractive clearance sales foster unsustainable consumer habits which are neither ethical nor sustainable for our environment. 

How Sustainable Is Eddie Bauer

We understand that ethics and sustainability are two separate things. But they are also intersectional, so let’s view sustainability as ethics for our planet

EB has a whole page dedicated to their sustainable practices. As an outdoor brand, they explain the importance of looking after the environment and their efforts for using recycled material and establishing safe work conditions. 

Some of EB’s products are made from Siizu’s SeaWool material. SeaWool is an innovative Taiwanese fabric made out of sustainably sourced restaurant oyster shells and recycled plastic bottles. Not only does it reduce plastic and food waste, but the SeaWool material also has exceptionally breathable qualities. 

On top of that, EB has partnered with bluesign and canopy to commit to making their clothes sustainable. Bluesign and EB work to ensure that harmful chemicals stay out of the ocean, air, and products. They aim to not source materials from ancient or endangered forests to produce the needed cellulose fibers for their products with canopy. 

However, in 2017, an advocate for Students and Youth America, Dakota Lilly, exposed EB for destroying clothes and disposing of them in dumpsters outside their New York store. While EB admits that it was indeed their clothes in the dumpsters, the staff denies damaging the clothes to prevent others from using them – in the spirit of capitalism. 

Whether they intentionally damaged the clothes or not, throwing away good apparel instead of donating or fixing them does not seem ethical or sustainable to us. It raises valid questions about the practices of EB and what they do to returned or damaged goods. Doubts EB still has yet to answer.

With all the good that’s being said, EB’s clearance sales and questionable practices on returned and damaged goods may counteract their sustainable efforts and is something they should focus on too. 

Is Eddie Bauer Involved in Any Charities

For some, having good ethics may include donating to charity or giving back to the community. And we couldn’t agree more. 

We’ve found that EB has partnered with numerous charities and nonprofit organizations over the years. All which can be found advertised on their website and through newspaper articles – but we must remember that brands only share what they want us to see.

The most notable project is EB’s 25 years old partnership and campaign with American Forests. It is a woodland restoration program that aims to restore forests in the United States and Canada by planting trees. EB makes it easy for consumers to donate to the charity through their ‘Add A Dollar, Plant A Tree’ slogan at checkout.

With over 8 million trees planted, their partnership has indeed been an impactful one. Deadpool actor, Ryan Reynolds, has even partnered with EB to become a Philanthropic Ambassador to raise funds for the forests. 

EB has also partnered with The Heroes Project to empower injured war veterans on their adventures and dreams. EB supports these heroes by providing house brand apparel and gear for their expeditions. 

Similarly, in their partnership with The Venture Out Project, EB also provides the necessary equipment for their adventures and finances scholarships. The Venture Out Project is a non-profit organization that aims to foster a safe and inclusive community for LGBTQ+ adventurers of all ages to explore and venture into nature.

We can’t deny that EB has done a great job in giving back to the community all while being inclusive at the same time. All in the spirit of empowerment and their love for the outdoors and adventure. 

What Do the Reviews Reveal About Eddie Bauer

You know how the saying goes, the customer is always right… So, we had to have a look at what the customers of EB had to say. 

According to customers’ feedback on Trustpilot, 95% of reviews were rated negative, rated ‘bad’ or ‘poor’. The common problems amongst consumers were poor customer service, delayed refunds (or lack of), and missing orders. Including many customers who have been loyal consumers for over 20 years, seeing a drastic change in quality and service over the past few years. 

The reputation of EB’s online presence does not seem promising. Almost every other customer review site, such as ResellerRatings and PissedConsumer, sharing the same poor experience with their online services and products. 

Final Thoughts

We must admit that EB has done a perfect job at marketing an inclusive and sustainable brand over the years. From their respectable partnerships to well-designed pages. But with a little digging, we can see the real problems with EB’s lack of transparency from their sourcing and ethical practices. Not to mention their non-existent customer service.

We hope, in the name of true diversity and inclusivity in the outdoors, EB put’s more effort into living up to their name. To ethically empower people and the community in their EB gear and apparel.

Stay impactful,

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