If you are a designer or small brand early in your sustainability journey, check out our Guide Ethical Fashion – A Guide for Independent Labels.
We do not provide specific advice for brands, however there are a number of other sources of detailed advice for small and medium brands. These include Factory 45 (US), the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, (US), Fashion Takes Action (Canada) Eco Fashion Week Vancouver and Seattle, (Canada and US) and Clean Cut Fashion (Australia).
The Good On You rating system rewards brands that are transparent, that use widely accepted standards, and that address all the material issues of concern to shoppers that want to act on their values. For a great rating we also expect that brands have the highest quality “assurance” of their ethical claims so shoppers can be confident they do in fact meet the standards they say they do. Compliance with a top tier certification is the most common way to achieve that.
Transparent Transparency comes first. Shoppers have a right to know who made their clothes, where they were made, and the impacts on animals, the environment and workers. We expect brands to provide information that is specific, relevant, complete and up to date. Ideally this will include publishing lists of all your suppliers, as demanded by the Fashion Revolution campaign.
Above all, you should avoid making general claims that your products are ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’, ‘artisan made’, ‘locally made’, etc without providing specific details.
Standards systems and Certifications Standards systems generally bring together the expertise of many people through lengthy consultation. We list more than 50 relevant to labour and/or environment standards here. Of course some are better than others either because they address more relevant issues, they have better assurance systems or for other reasons. Ideally the system you choose should address all the material issues relevant to your business, be widely recognised as robust, be reviewed and updated regularly with wide stakeholder input, and have strong assurance procedures.
Address all issues across the supply chain Some brands have been set up to respond to a particular issue, for example to address a single specific environmental issue like plastic pollution in the ocean, or to create jobs in a particular community. We’re excited to support these brands by highlighting their efforts in their brand description in the Good On You app and in relevant articles.
However the Good On You rating system caters for our many users looking for positive impacts across all issues. A full list of the material issues addressed under labour, environment and animals can be found here.
We know it’s hard to address all the labour, environment and animal issues in your supply chain, especially when you are small and/or starting out. But we’d recommend planning to do so over your first few years if not in your start up plans. And we acknowledge that depending on your circumstances there may be trade offs that mean you simply can’t address all the issues of concern to all shoppers (for example if your business is about providing jobs in a community where leather goods is the only viable option).
Assurance Accreditation or certification by a robust certification scheme(s) is the gold standard. The best schemes comply with the ISEAL Alliance’s credibility principles. It will be difficult – but not impossible – to achieve a Great rating without all or a large percentage of your products/operations certified by a comprehensive labour or environmental standard like Fair Trade, Cradle to Cradle (higher levels) or GOTS.