The world of ethical and sustainable fashion is constantly evolving. Good On You turns five this year (!!!), and while our ratings system has certainly evolved in that time, we decided it’s now appropriate to do a big update. This new and improved system allows us to stay on top of emerging issues and ensure our ratings are relevant, useful, and timely, so we can keep building our community over the next five years.
The key to this update has been collaboration. We’ve partnered with organisations around the world to harness their research and expertise, and incorporate these into the same five-level ratings system you’re probably familiar with. Some of these collaborations include our work with Fashion Revolution to incorporate findings from their Fashion Transparency Index. We developed ways to include detailed animal welfare research from Four Paws, and we used data from the Carbon Disclosure Project to inform our environmental ratings.
One of the biggest, most pressing issues to emerge this year is how fashion has responded to the COVID-19 crisis. Almost immediately after lockdowns started rolling out in March this year, stories emerged of big fashion brands cancelling orders and leaving vulnerable suppliers high and dry. To reflect the outrage many of us felt at this situation, the new system rewards brands which have policies in place to protect workers down the supply chain amid COVID-19 disruption, and penalises brands that don’t.
Here are some of the other big changes:
We’re rewarding brands with meaningful gender equality policies, such as pathways and support for women in leadership and ensuring workers are supported to work as their identified gender. We’re placing less emphasis on factory auditing, and more on worker empowerment initiatives, such as collective bargaining agreements and grievance policies, and work brands are doing to support suppliers meet labour standards. People are truly the backbone of the garment industry, and we’re thrilled to prioritise their wellbeing even more in this ratings update.
Brands reducing or eliminating the risk of ocean microplastics shedding from their clothing, or providing solutions like wash filters, are getting more points. We’re rewarding brands that avoid or minimise their impact on deforestation, making Good On You one of the leading sources of information on this issue. We’re allocating extra points for science-based carbon emission reduction targets and targets to reduce hazardous chemicals. We’re giving points for brands that promote circularity and environmental innovation, and fast fashion brands will be specifically penalised for their inherently unsustainable business model.
We’re further penalising brands for using farmed non-domesticated animals, especially furs and exotic skins such as python and alligator, and some types of animal hair such as Vicuna. Brands that can trace any animal products to source, and have clear animal welfare policies to reduce suffering will be rewarded.
So far we’ve updated the ratings for 100 of the biggest brands in our directory using this system and the news isn’t good for some household names. Zara moves from ‘It’s a Start’ to ‘Not Good Enough,’ while Boohoo drops from ‘Not Good Enough’ to ‘We Avoid’. We feel this more accurately reflects the impact of these fast fashion brands and your expectations as a Good On You user.
Many of you have asked for racial justice issues to be reflected in our ratings. We’ve begun work on how we can do this in a way that’s accurate, fair, and has the intended consequence—to elevate BIPOC-owned brands and those that do extra to support BIPOC communities, while taking points away for brands embroiled in racial controversies. It’s a hugely important and complex issue and we want to get it right. In the meantime, we’re adding even more BIPOC-owned brands to our directory and we’ll keep celebrating the best of the bunch in our content. We’ve also improved our own internal processes and transparency to understand where we are and how we can improve as an organisation and workplace.
Finally, we’ve also had lots of questions about how we rate brands that have been caught up in the human rights abuses taking place against Uighur people in China’s Xinjiang Province. Since February 2020, we have taken allegations of brands’ involvement in these abuses into account in our ratings and have penalised brands named in reports by various human rights and news organisations.
Thank you for being part of the Good On You community and helping us evolve and grow. This ratings update is a reflection of how far we’ve come, and the challenges that are ahead as we work to make fashion more sustainable and ethical for all.