New Balance is an American foot- and sportswear company. The brand is not transparent about its operations. The information that the company provides, is mostly outdated and lacks relevant numbers that can help us determine if the company is making decisions for the better.
The company publishes a brief sustainability report and offers some information on its website where it offers a peak into its sustainability world. For example, it states that it is working on reducing the average carbon emissions per pair of shoes and that it has set a target for this. Water and energy use per pair are to be improved as well. However, the company also states that it has not tracked scope 3 emissions and that it is still working on establishing tracking and reporting systems. Without proper tracking and reporting systems in its supply chain, this seems like a very hard thing to actually do right. We have no insight into true carbon emissions, water or energy usage or any real reduction targets.
These are logical missing pieces of the puzzles if New Balance has yet to start measuring. Nevertheless, the lack of transparency is notable in every part of the company’s reporting. The American brand has a history with production in the United States and the United Kingdom and while it doesn’t publish a supply chain list on the Open Apparel Index, it doesn’t actually offer us any insights into how big the percentage of local production actually is. Furthermore, we gain no wisdom about how the company is taking care of workers in these factories. Its code of conduct notes the most basic working rights, but doesn’t include collective bargaining, a very important principle. There are also no mentions of third-party audits. These are both major red flags in terms of labor rights. The company does ban a few animal materials, but doesn’t do nearly enough to ensure animal welfare. Sustainability isn’t completely off the agenda, it’s probably on there and New Balance must be making some improvements. However, we currently have no information about how the brand is doing environmentally and we have no clue whether it takes responsibility over animal welfare and workers’ rights in its supply chain. If New Balance is truly serious about positive change, we need way more transparency than it currently provides.