A growing number of consumers prefer buying from sustainable brands, and they are watching what companies do carefully. In a recent study conducted by consultancy firm Deloitte with over 10,000 Millennials and Generation Z consumers in Australia, Canada, China, India, the UK and the US, more than 80 percent of surveyors said they consider social and environmental practices to be determinant factors in how they perceive a brand. Another research, conducted in France by Ipsos and Axis Communications and presented at Paris Retail Week this week, revealed that 70 percent of consumers take environmental issues into account before making a purchase.
Good on You is an app which aims to help these environmentally-conscious consumers to make the best choices. It ranks over 2,000 fashion brands, based on their impact on the planet, people and animals. Founded in Australia in 2015, the company launched its app worldwide a few months ago. FashionUnited spoke to co-founder and CEO Gordon Renouf about the business.
How did the idea for the app come about?
It was obvious to me and Sandra [Capponi, co-founder] that fashion needed to change and shoppers want to be part of that change, if only they knew what they could do.
Our vision is a world where consumer choices drive brands to be sustainable and fair. Most consumers want that too, but to actually do something about it shoppers need access to easy-to-use, ethical information. People want to know how the brands they love impact on the issues they care about, and they want to discover new brands that are truly making products in more sustainable and ethical ways.
At the same time, there is a new wave of ethical and slow fashion brands who put their values at the centre of their story. Especially in the five years since the Rana Plaza disaster, there’s a real movement that’s gaining momentum. These digital-first labels build their customer base online via Instagram and good storytelling. We realised we can help bring those brands to the people who most want to hear from them.
Over 10,000 people downloaded the app in the first 8 days after its launch in Australia. What did you do to promote the app?
What was amazing is that we didn’t do all that much - just the kind of PR and social media you can do on zero budget! We got some good coverage for the launch and then people just really got behind the concept. Interestingly, when we first launched in Australia in 2015, fast fashion brands like Topshop, H&M and Zara had only recently opened their first brick and mortar stores. The quick uptake of the app just shows that there is great pent up demand for information about how this type of fashion brands impact our world.
You launched the app globally in March. How is it going so far? How many of your active users live outside of Australia?
More than 160,000 people have downloaded the Good On You app. Active users are roughly equally divided between North America, Europe and Australia, with a smaller segment from the rest of the world.
Good on You also works with more than 80 retailers to help them reach conscious consumers. Can you tell us a little bit more about this work?
Once a brand achieves a “Good” or “Great” overall rating using our standardised, transparent methodology, we’re proud to work with them to help them reach the widest audience. Opportunities for brands include sponsored content and special offers for Good On You users – of course any sponsored content is fully disclosed.
We also work with retailers who want to stock more ethical brands, and communicate how their brands perform directly to their customers. We provide retailers with access to a large database of brands with details on their ethical and sustainability attributes, their product types, location, size and so on. We’ve also given select retailers the right to use the Good On You rating and logo to tell their customers the ethical score of the brands they stock.
How many employees does the company have now?
We’re a team of 8, some part-time, based in 4 different cities. Key staff include our expert brand researchers, app developers and content producers.
Companies are rated based on sustainable certifications and data provided by the companies themselves. How do you assess the credibility of those certifications and, especially, the companies claims?
It’s key that our rating methodology can be applied to every brand in the market, large and small. Consumers want information about every brand, not just the largest brands or those that are the absolute best. So this means that we must be able to rate brands based on publicly available information - we like to say we stand in the shoes of the conscious consumer who knows what to look for and has a lot of time to do the looking. Companies do not provide data to us - they must publish it in the public domain if they want it to be considered.
It’s also essential that brands are transparent about their production processes - where and how clothes are made, including supplier lists, key inputs and materials used. Without transparency there is no way consumers or civil society can hold brands to account and no reason to believe a company’s sustainability claims. If a company publishes no information then it fails the first test of an ethical and sustainable brand, one that wants to meet its customers’ expectations.
Our methodology brings together and builds on the knowledge and research of a wide range or people and organisations with expertise in the environmental, labour and animal rights issues that brands need to address. These include non-profit advocates for change like Greenpeace and fair labour campaigners, credible certification schemes like Fair Trade, the Global Organic Textile Standard and Oeko-Tex, industry sustainability bodies.
As for checking what companies say, we only pay attention to specific relevant claims that brands make - the kind of claims that would breach laws against misleading statements if they were not true. We ignore all fluffy marketing spin like statements that a brand is “natural” or that it is ‘radically transparent’ unless these are backed up with concrete action on the important issues. We look at specific, verifiable actions reported by brands: have they they set Science-Based climate change targets and reported on progress? Do they publish supplier lists? Do they engage with unions and NGOs? Do they participate in relevant best practice initiatives like the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord?
What are Good on You’s plans for the future?
Our core value to users is the number of brands we rate and the quality of our methodology. On both those issues our goal is to continually improve - today we list 2,000 brands but we will be listing 10,000 brands in the near future. We are also building on our current brand rating methodology to address more and more issues that consumers care about and experts say are important.
Photo courtesy of the brand