The Ethical Fashion Roundup #15 | The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Do brand sustainability ratings work?

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Photo by Ellie Morag, from a clothes swap I hosted in Feb 2019

Remake, the ethical fashion non-profit behind the #PayUp campaign, has just launched a new directory of fashion brands rated on their social and environmental credentials. The directory scores brands out of a possible 100, offering a 'Remake seal of approval' to brands that score 50 or more, and sorting them into wider categories to help guide consumers: Rockstars, Up & Comers, Wannabees, and Offenders. Its criteria include: Transparency and Traceability, Maker Wellbeing, Environmental Sustainability, Raw Materials and Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Upon launch, Remake’s transparency report celebrated the ‘good’ brands - Outerknown, Nudie Jeans, Mara Hoffman, Patagonia, Organic Basics, Girlfriend Collective, Nisolo and Raven + Lily. Then, they highlighted the ‘bad’ brands that have made progress but leave some room for improvement, like Nike, Lululemon, Matt & Nat and Reformation, and the smaller brands who deserve support, like Armed Angels, Vetta and Hara. Then we have the ‘ugly’ - fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, Missguided and Boohoo, as well as surprising offenders like ethical fashion favourite Allbirds.

It is great to see such a well-researched resource without a profit motive to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions, and I have such huge respect for Remake for putting this out. Not least because I’ve been consulting on another sustainability framework model over the last couple of months and can attest to the many hours of complex research required. However, it seems like since the soaring success of Good On You - the sustainability rating app with arguably the most extensive directory of brands based upon an affiliate income model - dozens of these brand rating services have popped up. My email inbox is full of press releases from new startups every week, with a severe lack of robust methodology or disclosure of conflicts of interest. We know that consumers want clear information, and data shows that third-party verifications do help. But with so many to choose from now, how do we know who to trust?

It’s here that I come to a conclusion I’m so bored of hearing myself say - we need legislation. In an ideal world, we shouldn’t have to look to third-party services to certify that the products we invest in aren’t made in horrific working conditions by underpaid and undervalued workers using toxic, resource-intensive materials. Ethically made, environmentally sound products with fully transparent supply chains should be assured without question - not as an optional extra but as a bare minimum requirement. Brands should not be allowed to mislead us, and it’s ridiculous that the fashion industry should remain one of the only exceptions to this assumed rule of law.

Do brand sustainability ratings work? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Ethical fashion headlines to catch up on this month

Podcast lineup

New episodes to fill your ears with conscious conversation

How to build a sustainable wardrobe without spending $$$

Photo: @wearenuw

My latest article for Waste Free World explores all the wonderful ways you can dress according to your values without actually spending any money. Your bank balance can thank me later. Remember, the most sustainable item of clothing is always the one you already own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the joy in fashion at the same time.

If, however, you do feel like spending (smooth segue, right?), I’ve compiled some discount codes from a small handful of purpose-driven brands like Birdsong, Organic Basics, Grace & Green and Anuka Jewellery that give you money off and help chuck a couple of pennies my way. Click here to explore.

Sustainable fashion *action* of the month

‘Tis the season for mindless consumption! Here comes Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the toxic celebration of overproduction, discount culture, single-use clothing and allllll that is wrong in the fashion industry.

Your sustainable fashion action of the month is this: resist. Resist the sales (is it really a ‘bargain’ if you didn’t need it in the first place?), unsubscribe and unfollow brand marketing messages, and use Black Friday as an opportunity to stand up for the people that make our clothes instead. Here’s an idea from Fashion Revolution’s brilliant Black Friday campaign:

Reach out to the big brands and ask them how they protect the people who make their clothes and whether they’re taking responsibility for the waste they create. Ask them #WhoMadeMyClothes? Ask #WhatsInMyClothes? and ask them to make less stuff. Use the template below to send a tweet or pop into their DMs:

“Hey [@fashionbrand], this Black Friday, I want to know how you’re taking responsibility for the waste in your operations, ensuring the wellbeing of everyone who makes your clothes and tackling fashion overproduction? Tell me #WhatsInMyClothes? #WhoMadeMyClothes?”

Join me **this evening at 7pm** for a free virtual stitch + bitch event with Fashion Revolution Scotland to chat all about Black Friday - Zoom registration link here.

Thanks for reading and subscribing!

As before, paid subscriptions to this newsletter are on hold, so these monthly emails will now include a link to my Ko-Fi page. If you like, you can buy me a virtual coffee to keep this space going.

If you’re missing the weekly ethical fashion updates, I’d highly recommend signing up to the Vogue Business sustainability newsletter, and I’ve been really enjoying Slow Fashion Weekly by Inês Fressynet too, as well as Aja Barber’s Patreon posts. Plus weekly episodes from Common Threads 💚

See you next time,
Ruth x