A Closer Look At Everlane’s Sustainability Promise To Consumers

A Closer Look At Everlane's Sustainability Promise To Consumers

Everlane made waves in May 2019 at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit with its claims of sustainability and “radical transparency,” leading to $50 million in revenue in 5 years and the company’s own efforts to seek valuation of more than $250 million.
Allegations of Hypocrisy
But last summer, the company found itself in hot water: waves of public allegations of hypocrisy, former employees accusing it of anti-Black behavior and union busting, and allegations that it sold an image of sustainability to the world that was at odds with employees’ own experiences inside the company.
Three current employees in particular described a culture of favoritism, particularly to those employees defensive of founder and chief executive Michael Preysman. These concerns and allegations came out at an all-staff meeting, and led to an internal investigation by Everlane leadership that confirmed many of the complaints.
Specifically, investigators said that they confirmed the use of insensitive terms during discussions of Black models; that leaders violated employees’ personal space by touching them, and also used inappropriate terms when referring to people of color; that new hires felt isolated and unwelcome; a lack of consistent policies around promotions, and no formal processes to effectively escalate harassment or discrimination claims.
Mr. Preysman has made a statement that the company has “urgent work to do to rewrite Everlane’s code of ethics.” The company will be opening a seat for a Black board member in the next year, add a Black person to the senior leadership team in the next year, roll out anti-racism training for the entire company, and team with two racism accountability organizations.
But the company’s image has been tarnished, and it is already having severe ramifications: “We’re losing $15 million this year in profit,” Mr. Preysman said.
Unionizing Efforts and Layoffs
According to ex-employee Toni Kwadzogah, 28, laid off last spring, many employees “were zealous fans, because we really, really did believe in the mission.”
Kwadzogah explains that “when you cultivate an image in such a progressive style | Learn more on Commonshare |, you attract people, workers and customers alike, who have these progressive values. And when you fail them, well, good luck.”
Back in December of last year, Kwadzogah was part of a group of remote customer experience workers who said that they were unionizing. They felt that they had become “second-class citizens,” and did not have opportunities for career growth, or any of the start-up perks enjoyed by full-time colleagues at headquarters.
Everlane claimed that multiple members of this team have gone on to become full-time employees, but did not specify how many.
However, Kwadzogah and many others were laid off: in all, 290 employees were laid off, including 42 of the remote customer-experience team’s 57 employees. Everlane says the layoffs were related to the Covid-19 pandemic, and claims that it did not have knowledge of which of the employees who were laid off had been part of the unionizing effort.
However, the workers themselves believed they had been union busted, and drew the public support of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Racial Insensitivity Allegations
In June, brands everywhere rushed to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Everlane among them, in the context of the many protests that followed the death of George Floyd. However, many employees said that they had experienced racism while working at Everlane.
A group of 14 anonymous former employees, the self-titled “Ex Wives Club,” published a document detailing their experiences with what they called “anti-Black behavior” at Everlane. They argued that they were overworked, underpaid, deprived of career opportunities and punished for speaking up. Everlane has denied the accuracy of these allegations.
The Ex Wives Club has now grown to about 50 members since going public, and has publicized many allegations of insensitive and inappropriate behavior.
Radical Transparency?
The company has also drawn criticism for inadequate transparency and efforts toward sustainability | Learn more on Commonshare |. Last year, it received a “not good enough” overall rating from the brand ratings platform Good on You.
The rating was because it failed to track greenhouse gases across its entire line, and had an absence of initiatives to guarantee living wages or reduce water use. The company has said publicly that it’s working toward third-party certifications, which could improve future ratings.
Luke Smitham, a sustainability expert at Kumi Consulting in London, said that “Everland puts a great deal of focus on ‘radical transparency’… but fundamentally, what they do is not any different from most mass-market fashion brands who do exactly the same, or more.”  

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