“Transparency is the first step towards a different culture for the fashion industry- one where brands become accountable and open, and consumers and citizens are ready to scrutinise and stay vigilant.” Wise words from Orsola De Castro, co-founder of the movement, Fashion Revolution.
However, different fashion brands are adapting to the new culture at their own pace; some more vocal about their sustainability-driven efforts, others not and the rest lie somewhere in between. Meanwhile, a growing tribe of conscious shoppers is starting to care about the human and environmental impact of fashion. But it is unwilling to navigate through a maze of certifications, independent rankings and media reports to judge a brand’s ethical credentials.
Enter Good On You (GOY), a sustainability app that provides data on fashion brands and rates them on three parameters: impact on people in the supply chain, environmental impact and animal welfare. Currently, GOY is the largest customer-facing database of fashion brands that are rated for the criteria mentioned above. Besides, it has put mainstream fashion players and upcoming sustainable fashion brands on the same platform. Usually, the two cohorts operate in silos.
As a result, the user-journey on the app becomes easy to navigate. Users can check how their favourite fashion labels rate. Should that brand have a poor rating, the app recommends a list of similar brands but ones that fare better on sustainability criteria. GOY’s algorithms also allow for discovery of new ethically-driven fashion brands, based on one’s location and style preferences.
Back in 2015, when the app launched in Australia sans fanfare, it was downloaded over 10,000 times in the first eight days. The need for a tool to make shopping decisions better stood validated. Since then, the founders- consumer advocate Gordon Renouf and corporate social responsibility professional Sandra Capponi– have taken the startup on a slow course. However, they are aiming to put the expansion on fast-track and grow the existing base of 150,000 users.
GOY made its way to the US in 2017 and formally launches in Europe in June 2018. While the free app is available for download anywhere in the world, a geographical launch translates into adding region-specific brands to the database.
“We are really focused on rating the brands relevant to shoppers in that market; from mainstream ones on the high street to lesser known ones that are leading on sustainability and ethics. For the launch in Europe, we are focusing on English speaking markets like the UK and others like Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavian countries,” says Sandra Capponi, Co-Founder & Head of Development, GOY.
As many as 500 European brands have been added to the GOY database, taking the total tally to 2,000.
GOY brand ratings range from the lowest at 1 (‘we avoid’) to the highest at 5 (‘great’). However, behind the scenes, a complex rating methodology is at work. Data is extracted from more than 50 publically available sources such as global certifications (including Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard), accreditations, independent rankings, reports and brand’s public statements. The research is published as a summary along with the ratings.
“We put ourselves in the shoes of a shopper who has the right to know and wants to know this information,” explains Capponi. “Transparency is key to our methodology. We’ve had instances where brands contacted us to express disagreement with our assessment. And often when we explain our method, the reason why there’s a mismatch is that they are not publishing all the good stuff they are doing. So we have examples where brands have moved to publish more, triggering an update and improvement in their ratings.”
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The hope is that pushing for transparency will drive a positive change in brand behaviour. This is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2016, wherein Goal 12.6 encourages companies ‘to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.’ By disclosing their efforts, among other benefits, fashion companies stand to gain through enhanced reputation and access to new markets.
On GOY, the more a brand communicates its efforts; the better is its rating.
Most of the luxury brands received low ratings, ‘we avoid’ or ‘not good enough’ due to insufficient communication about their environmental and labour impact and use of animal fur. Exceptions to that trend are Stella McCartney and Gucci, who rate high on environmental standards. Fast-fashion behemoths such as Zara, H&M and Primark, sit in the middle with an ‘it’s a start’ rating. Marks & Spencer and Adidas are two notable high-street players rated ‘good’. The top honours go to the relatively smaller brands like Know The Origin and People Tree, who score high on all criteria: people, planet and animals.
Capponi explains that her team is constantly on the lookout for upcoming sustainable fashion brands that pass the rating muster, which could then be promoted on the sustainability app and also connected with ethically inclined retailers.
Another app feature finding favour with users is ‘message to brand’. It allows the shopper to reach out to a brand with a complaint, compliment or question. As the platform scales, the GOY team is exploring ways to use this feature for aggregating customer voices, which can then be presented to the relevant brand. For example, a monthly email to Zara about collective user-speak might carry useful insights.
“We’ve learnt from our user surveys that people want a one-stop shop, and they trust us for the information we are giving. Hence, the next natural step in the user journey is to be able to shop.”
While GOY started out as a volunteer-driven non-profit organisation, it has metamorphosed into a for-profit venture that drives social impact. Brands don’t pay to get listed but the ones rated ‘good’ or ‘great’ sponsor content and promotions on the platform. Currently, the startup is raising investments to build an e-commerce marketplace.
“We’ve learnt from our user surveys that people want a one-stop shop, and they trust us for the information we are giving. Hence, the next natural step in the user journey is to be able to shop. We have tested that through our offers tab and now want to build a more integrated shopping experience,” says Capponi.
Good On You is having a good run. It was invited by Vogue Australia’s guest editor and actor Emma Watson to rate fashion brands featured in the March 2018 issue. And recently, founders of the app won a place in the latest Amsterdam-based Fashion For Good – Plug and Play accelerator programme.
Molshree is a fashion consultant and researcher based in London. With a background in fashion retail, she is currently focussing on projects that propel the sustainability agenda into the mainstream.