Polo Ralph Lauren

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How sustainable is Polo Ralph Lauren?


Science Based Targets Initiative

The Ralph Lauren Corporation is a premium American fashion company. It employs over 12,500 people worldwide and has stores all over the globe. The corporation mainly owns fashion brands, but also has bars and coffee shops in big cities. Polo by Ralph Lauren is its biggest brand, which is easily identifiable for its famous polo player emblem. Ralph Lauren measured and published its carbon footprint recently for the first time. It accomplished this through the adoption of the Higg Environmental Module, which currently allows them to further reduce carbon emissions and monitor environmental performance in its supply chain. The company has hereby achieved its previous targets of measuring its footprint that allows for the introduction of reduction targets. These targets are now set and include a Science Based Target to reduce its emissions by 30% by 2030, 100% renewable electricity by 2025 in its owned facilities and a 20% reduction of total water usage. Ralph Lauren also includes a target for 100% recyclable or sustainable packaging by 2025 and complete elimination of harmful chemicals in its supply chain by that same year. Ralph Lauren has set targets for all its materials and aims to have 100% sustainably sourced 2025. All of these targets are ambitious and indicate that Ralph Lauren is pushing for change fast. But they also indicate that the company’s current operation is largely unsustainable. This is particularly obvious for its material sourcing. Cotton amounts for 82.1% of its total material sourcing and is currently merely 13% more sustainably sourced. Most other materials the company sources, like polyester, viscose, leather, cashmere and wool, are currently sourced without certifications, which is especially worrisome for leather and wool since these are prone to animal cruelty. To touch on the labor topic, the company does audit a large part of its supply chain and states 77% of its factories were audited in 2019. It further specifies that out of 466 audits, 333 were conducted by independent third parties, 48 were done by Ralph Lauren itself, and Better Work conducted 85 audits. However, the company doesn’t specify who the third parties were, and it doesn’t have a membership with a big independent auditor like the Ethical Trading Initiative or the Fair Labor Association. More transparency is needed on the topic. The company shows that it wants to change rapidly and its ambitious targets show that it’s serious about it. But targets are also just targets and there’s some serious work to be done by the company if it wants to achieve them.

Publication date: July 3rd 2020
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