Think your favorite brand is ethical? Think again…

Here’s my recommendation of six popular companies at the school you shouldn’t spend your money at and some ethical alternatives.


photo by Grace Uhrain

A graphic shows the moral dilemma of picking popular businesses vs. the ethical ones.

by Grace Uhrain, Editor in Chief

Did you know that some popular companies harm the environment, use sweatshops abroad, or actively try to take away civil rights? Here are some companies you shouldn’t give your business because of their unethical practices and some alternatives you can shop instead:


1. Chick-fil-A 

Why you shouldn’t spend your money here: Chick-fil-A, despite being a favorite of Rock Canyon students, has some veiled secrets. According to Insider, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, is a top donor to the National Christian Charitable Foundation, which has funded efforts to combat equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. In addition, PR Newswire reported a video exposing Chick-Fil-A suppliers torturing chickens in 2014 with actions including, but not limited to, throwing and kicking them.

A good alternative: Panera Bread

Panera, a prevalent restaurant chain in the Denver Metro area, is a more ethical alternative to Chick-fil-A. Panera has committed to being ‘carbon positive’ by 2050, according to Worth, which is taking away more emissions than creating them. In addition, Panera has a menu with climate friendly dishes to try. According to ASPCA, Panera committed in 2016 to ensuring animal welfare by stopping animal confinement and making sure breeders used ethical practices.

“They have really good food and the staff are always really nice,” Amy Husband ‘25 said.


2. Nike

Why you shouldn’t spend your money here: According to a Quartz article, Nike’s suppliers have been reported using forced Uyghur labor in China, along with other apparel and electronics companies. In addition, Nike lobbied against measures that would help to prevent forced labor in China, according to the New York Times. Nike has also earned a low rating from Ethical Consumer for its environmental practices such as use of chemicals.

A good alternative: Allbirds

Allbirds, an apparel company, is mainly known for its athletic shoes. Allbirds is a B Corporation, meaning that it meets high standards for ethicality and environmental policies. Allbirds has set targets to further reduce its carbon footprint by 2025, according to Forbes.


3. Lululemon Athletica 

Why you shouldn’t spend your money here: According to The Guardian, in 2019, it was uncovered that women working in factories producing Lululemon products were subject to abuse. In addition, some laborers claimed they earned a wage of less than $106 per month from their employers. Lululemon has also been accused of greenwashing, which means the company claims to positively impact the environment without proof.

A good alternative: Athleta

Athleta is an athleisure apparel company similar to Lululemon, but with more ethical practices. Athleta is a B Corporation, which shows its ethical and environmental responsibility. 

“They provide for a lot of sizes. They have comfortable clothing that’s flattering. It’s nice, they encourage diversity and healthy wellbeing,” Liat Hernandez ‘25 said.


4. North Face 

Why you shouldn’t spend your money here: North Face, despite promoting their ethical values, has ties to suppliers using forced labor in China, according to Shop Ethical. In addition, Greenpeace petitioned North Face in 2016 to stop using toxic chemicals to make its products. While North Face agreed to phase the chemicals out, the brand gave itself until 2025 to do so.

A good alternative: Patagonia

Patagonia is an outerwear brand that uses sustainable and ethical practices. For instance, Patagonia has a reuse program that allows customers to buy used articles of clothing for a lower price. In addition, its cotton is certified organic, according to Good On You.


5. American Eagle Outfitters

Why you shouldn’t spend your money here: American Eagle has used unethical practices in the production of its clothes. For example, sandblasting was used in the production of their jeans, which can be harmful to workers’ health, according to Impactful Ninja

A good alternative: Threads 4 Thought, Ivory Ella

Threads 4 Thought is an apparel brand with a purpose. According to their Sustainability Report, 80% of their wastewater is recycled and makes clothing made of recycled plastic bottles.

Ivory Ella is an apparel brand that donates some of its profits to elephant conservation efforts and uses sustainably sourced cotton, according to their sustainability page.


6. Amazon Books

Why you shouldn’t spend your money here: Amazon, despite being a very mainstream company, does not make a lot of efforts towards ethical business practices nor sustainability. According to a 2020 Oceana report, approximately 22.44 million pounds of plastic packaging that would go into water sources was from Amazon. Last year, Amazon discouraged workers from voting in favor of unionization, according to a Business Insider article. Workers will vote again Feb.

A good alternative: Better World Books

Better World Books is an online bookseller that gives one book for each book bought, according to its website. In addition, Better World Books sells used books and has free shipping.