How Ethical Is Frank and Oak? All You Need to Know

How Ethical Is Frank and Oak? All You Need to Know

Dennis Kamprad

Read Time:9 Minutes


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Frank and Oak is a leading Canadian brand in quality and minimal fashion. In the name of building a connection with man and nature, they have a strong stance on creating clothes with sustainable and ethical practices. So we had to ask: How ethical is Frank and Oak?

Frank and Oak can be considered an ethical company. They are a Certified B Corporation, transparent with their ethics goals, and actively involved in supporting their community and the environment. However, greater accountability is needed to back their ethical claims and practices.

Information on Frank and Oak’s sustainable practices were easy to find as they are explained extensively on their website. However, ethical practices and evidence to support their work are almost non-existent. We know that they love the environment and pride in quality clothes, but are they ethically made and sold? This article might tell you. 

Frank and Oak: Signifying the Connection Between Man and Nature

Founded by two high-school friends, Ethan Song and Hitcham Ratnani, in 2012 in Montreal, Canada, Frank and Oak (F&O) started off as an e-commerce store for men’s fashion. With the vision of connecting man (Frank) with nature (Oak), their vision for their store was rustic, earthy yet functional and stylish. 

  • Now, F&O has expanded to physical stores and women’s fashion, offering a vast collection of minimal essentials for everyone, from shoes, shirts, and coats. 
  • After 11 years of the founders’ reign of CEO, they’ve tapped in Jeremy Brown as the new CEO of F&O in 2020. Brown was previously CFO for some big brands such as Sephora and Bath & Body Works, including F&O’s former CFO. 
  • As many start-ups do to save themselves from bankruptcy, F&O was acquired by the Unified Commerce Group (UCG) in late 2020. UCG is a New Retail group that has also invested in brands such as Lisa Von Tang and Radley.

Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, F&O has 11 stores across the major cities of Canada. With UGC, they aim to venture out and expand into America and Asia. F&O currently manufactures its goods in factories and suppliers in Montreal, Dubai, Portugal, Bangladesh, and China. 

How Ethical Does Frank and Oak Say They Are

“Made for good living. We’re dedicated to providing you with purposefully designed products, made ethically and sustainably.“

Frank and Oak

Information on F&O’s sustainable practices is vast and evident on their website. However, the only information on ethics we could find on their website is in small paragraphs scattered across their sub-pages. Such as their brief stance on the factories and manufacturers they engage in and a somewhat random blog post on how to buy ethical souvenirs

As of now, F&O don’t publicize reports or information on their practices and policies on ethics. And there are almost no dedicated pages to further information about their ethical practices or policies. They have not partnered with any accreditors to vouch for workers’ fair wages, safe working environments, and the high standards which they claim.

We appreciate F&O visions and acknowledgment of ethical fashion. But, transparency and more information about their ethical practices and policies should be published too. 

Organizations Frank and Oak Has Joined to Prove Their Ethics

Nowadays, certification and partnerships with organizations go a long way to prove a brand’s ethics and practices to the industry and its consumers. According to our research F&O is a certified B Corporation and is partnered with Equitas.

B Corporation Certified: The Highest Standard of Assessment 

According to B Corporation, F&O has an overall impact score of 81.7 out of 200. Slightly above the requirement to gain certification, 80. Some other brands that have been certified and assessed and scored for their overall impact include The Body Shop (82.6), Patagonia (151.4), and TOMS (121.5).

Being B Corporation certified means that the brand has been assessed for its work ethics and practices, supply-chain management, materials used, and environmental impact. These factors then compute and measure their social and environmental impact and accountability. 

F&O is B Corporation certified, which means they have gone through the highest standard for assessing accountability and impact. Still, we see that F&O have a long way to attain a higher impact score than other brands. 

Frank and Oak Joining Equitas and Their Fight For Human Rights

Lastly, F&O is partnered with Equitas, an organization that promotes social justice and human rights through empowerment and education. F&O is one of the many well-known supporters of this organization, including the Government of Canada and Air Canada.

Listed as a sponsor, F&O’s funds and support would most likely go towards human rights educational programs, leading to transformative changes across Canada and the World. 

While it could be a marketing ploy to get on the good side of ethics, Equitas’s board of partners includes reputable and trustworthy organizations, and not just anyone can partner with Equitas. 

What Can Be Found About Frank and Oak in the Media

There has been nothing but good articles in our intensive research for F&O’s ethics in the media. Even honorable mentions, such as Brand of the Year by Strategy. Often these articles are related to their goal of sustainability and transparency.

According to Good On You, F&O is rated 3, ‘It’s A Start’. The rating goes from 1 (We Avoid) to 5 (Great). Other well-known brands with the same rating include H&M and The North Face. Good On You evaluates brands according to their ethical and sustainable impact on the people, planet, and animals.

Good On You highlights how there is no evidence from F&O on the environmental impact of their sustainable and eco-friendly practices. They acknowledge F&O’s transparency with the locations of suppliers on their page. However, they also explain how F&O source in high-risk countries and only claim to audit certain stages of production. 

There are numerous media articles on the appraisal for F&O’s effort in sustainable and circular fashion. But often so, these articles do not mention ethics, or they tend to confuse ethics with sustainability.

How Ethical Is the Business Model of Frank and Oak

How Transparent Are Frank and Oak With Manufacturing

F&O openly shares the countries of the factories and manufacturers that they work with on their website. The list includes many countries with a questionable history of ethical practices, such as Bangladesh, China, Dubai, and Bangladesh. 

The names of countries are as far as they go with disclosure. They do not publish the specific details or terms they have established with the said suppliers.  

Although F&O ensure that the manufacturers and factories are monitored and held accountable. They claim that external certification and requirements are performed to reach their sustainable (and hopefully ethical) practices. 

Yet, we could not find any accreditation of these certifications or any third-party organizations, so for now, we have to take their word for it.

Installment Plans for Frank and Oak Consumers

Many only retail brands have shown interest in the Buy Now and Pay Later scheme over the years. And F&O is one of them. They have partnered with Sezzle to introduce an interest-free payment method for their customers.

We love that no interest is being charged to customers, and control is given to them to take their time in payment. Although CNBC suggests that these schemes result in customers buying more than they should. So, maybe installment plans are just an innovative tactic for brands to gain more revenue.

Frank and Oak: Yet Another Monthly Subscription Box 

F&O’s version of a monthly subscription box is called Style Plan. Customers fill up a questionnaire and based on the results a personal stylist will pick 2-3 pieces every month. If the pieces were not what they were hoping for, they could return them and get a refund. 

A blogger named Charlotte and similar customers have shared their thoughts on Style Plan in a review blog post. Charlotte shares how it took her three subscriptions until she found pieces she liked and that for each time the goods were returned, she had to pay a fee for cancellation.

Additionally, suppose you don’t review and either keep or return your items in two-days. In that case, your subscription will be confirmed, and you would be billed immediately. Similarly, customers expressed their frustration on how refunds were complex and lengthy. And if done wrongly, it would land with you a hefty bill. 

So, is a monthly subscription plan ethical to consumers if it’s confusing and expensive to cancel? Also, is it ethical and sustainable for the environment with all the packaging and deliveries made? 

From an interview to promote their sustainable winter collection, we thought it was appropriate to quote one of the F&O founders, “Do you really need that jacket?”.

How Sustainable Is Frank and Oak

Being ethical also means being sustainable and kind to our environment. F&O are on top of the sustainability game, with individual pages dedicated to their sustainable practices, responsible denim, and fabric used. After all, they label themselves as a sustainable brand. 

Their sustainability efforts to reduce plastic and carbon emissions are countless and definitely well thought out. Such as:

  • Using recycled and post-consumer packaging and materials for deliveries
  • Teaming up with Earth Canada to offset the carbon emissions from their shipments
  • Planting a tree with One Tree Planted for every roll of EcoChit receipts used
  • Consciously producing clothes with minimal pollution and impact on the environment

These are just some notable practices by F&O, and the list goes on and on. 

Other than sustainability in stores and production, F&O also bring their sustainable values into their offices. F&O believe that their brand values should also transcend to the workplace and emphasize work-life balance for their employers. 

Although we could not find any Code of Conduct of Ethics for the company, we’re glad that one aspect of work-life for their employees is being looked out for by F&O.

Are Frank and Oak Involved in Any Charities

Aiding a charity is not only a great way to support a cause, but it also provides good marketing for your brand image by showing good ethics. So, we had to take a lot at F&O’s community involvement and see if they have contributed impactfully. 

For Pride Month, F&O collaborated with a women’s organization to create a unique collection in support of the LGBTQ+ community. F&O donated five dollars to Montreal Pride, an organization supporting the community, for every purchase made from the collection. 

Giving a Shi(r)t About the Environment and To the Community

In 2019, F&O organized a campaign called “Let’s Give a Shi(r)t.”  With the aim of giving back to those in need, F&O hoped to collect 5,000 garments to be donated to seven charities across Canada. Customers could bring their clothes to the store, and they would receive a 15% discount in-store for every donation. 

Some customers have expressed that the campaign does not promote sustainability and ethical shopping habits. Instead, the 15% discount encourages consumers to buy more than they need. These customers suggest that people should use one product for as long as possible before purchasing other new options.

According to their website, F&O have expanded the campaign by working with grassroots nonprofits all across Canada in hopes of giving clothes a second home, diverting them away from the landfills. However, no information is found for whether the 15% discount is still on for donations. 

Just a Marketing Ploy or Impactful Change in Brazil?

A special model of sneakers has been named after a Brazillian NGO called ESPLAR. In the product description, F&O states that ESPLAR aids organic cotton farmers in Brazil and that the shoes are made in Brazil.

Sounds good, right?

To our surprise, nowhere in the product description or F&O page mentions if the sneakers’ proceeds go towards the NGOs or farmers in Brazil. The only relevance to Brazil is that the shoes were manufactured there. 

So, what is the connection between ESPLAR and F&O, other than a good name and story for a sneaker model?

We had to find the answers and turned to F&O’s customer service. They were quick to reply with a long message. They explained how F&O are highly conscious of how their products are made and hold their production and manufacturing to international standards. 

The F&O representative even requested for our email to connect with the production team to further answer our queries. Without a doubt, F&O are on top of their game with good customer service and ethical visions. 

However, our questions of ESPLAR connection with F&O were still not answered. We hope F&O looks into this and gives ESPLAR the credit they deserve. After all, the shoes were sold out on their website. 

What Do the Reviews Reveal About Frank and Oak

The real test to a brand’s good practices and products are their customers’ experiences and feedback. 

The average rating for all of F&O stores on Google reviews is around 4.3 stars. Many customers appreciate the friendly customer service, personal styling options, and exceptional quality products despite the costs. 

Interestingly, we’ve found that most F&O customers’ grievances come from their online shopping experience. Which is odd, considering F&O started off as an e-commerce store. Customers have expressed their difficulty in opting out of their expensive subscription plans and obtaining refunds. 

According to Trustpilot’s few reviews on F&O, F&O currently holds an average rating of 3.5 stars. One Trustpilot user shared that he appreciates F&O’s effort in ethical and transparent fashion. Still, he states that F&O can do much better to improve. And until then, he would not consider repurchasing their products.

Final Thoughts

F&O has done a great job in promoting sustainable practices and following through with them. They collaborate with multiple organizations and communities and are transparent with their brand’s intentions and visions. With that said, their claims and impacts on sustainable and ethical practices are generally unverified but much wanted by their consumers. 

Stay impactful,

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