It’s no secret that sustainable fashion is a hot topic, as more and more shoppers are demanding to know where and how their clothes are made. But what does a more sustainable fashion industry actually look like, and why is it important?

Sustainable fashion is about fostering a fashion industry that takes a long term approach to the design, manufacturing, and consumption of clothes and accessories. It’s about fashion that both creates good and avoids harm, whether to people, the planet, or animals.

The why is pretty simple. In short, the world is waking up to the incredibly damaging practices of the fashion industry, and demanding change.

Picture this: you can wander into any clothing store to shop, and know right away exactly how your purchases will affect the environment, workers, and animals alike. You can browse through the collections with a light heart, knowing that a lucky find would benefit the planet and its inhabitants instead of harming them. This is the ultimate goal that drives the ethical and sustainable fashion movement.

To help make the transition smoother for both shoppers and brands alike, meet Good On You: the leading sustainability ratings platform for fashion.

The role of Good On You

Good On You's website

Brands and retailers from around the world are teaming up with Good On You to help shoppers make more conscious and sustainable choices.

But what does it really take to be a sustainable fashion brand? And how can a brand address its impacts to reach more conscious shoppers? Good On You explains.

How it works

The Good On You rating system considers the most important social and environmental issues facing the fashion industry to assess a brand’s impact on three key pillars: people, planet, and animals.

We look at leading industry standards, certifications, and a brand’s own public reporting to award a 5-point score from 1-We Avoid, to 2-Not good enough, 3-It’s a start, 4-Good, and 5-Great. We recommend supporting brands rated ‘Good’ (4/5) or ‘Great’ (5/5) across our channels.

How transparent is the brand?

Transparency is an important first step in the journey to becoming a more sustainable brand, because it drives accountability and progress over time. It also helps customers make informed choices if a brand publicly discloses information on their practices and policies.

For this reason, the Good On You rating system is based on the specific, concrete data that brands publish. So brands that are transparent about their practices and progress against key sustainability issues score better, whereas brands that don’t disclose any information score poorly.

Here’s what we look for when rating a fashion brand for their impact on people, the planet, and animals.

Impact on people

When we assess how a brand impacts people, we look at how its workers are treated across the supply chain. These include policies and practices on child labour, forced labour, worker safety, gender equality, the right to join a union, and payment of a living wage. We also consider a brand’s relationships with their suppliers, how they empower their workers, and whether they audit their factories.

Brands that want to avoid or reduce negative impacts on workers can:

  1. Trace suppliers all the way to raw materials
  2. Avoid hotspots for human rights abuses
  3. Create and publish a supplier code of conduct that aligns with international labour standards
  4. Develop strong relationships with suppliers to ensure worker safety and living wages, and promote worker empowerment
  5. Use certification schemes to ensure compliance with standards, eg Fairtrade, Fair Wear Foundation.

Brands that score well on people include premium jeans label, Outland Denim (Great), which traces all of its supply chain and offers employment opportunities for women who have been trafficked in Cambodia. Or US-made Christy Dawn (Great) that ensures payment of a living wage in its final stage of production.

Impact on the planet

For the environment, we consider each brand’s use of resources and waste management, their commitments to circular practices, whether they measure and reduce carbon emissions, their impacts on water and microplastics, as well as how they use and dispose of chemicals.

Brands that want to reduce their environmental footprint can:

  1. Use eco-friendly materials to limit the amount of chemicals and water used in production
  2. Transition to renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions
  3. Reduce textile waste by reusing offcuts or using recycled materials
  4. Minimise packaging and/or use compostable, recyclable, or reusable packaging (like noissue!)
  5. Use certification schemes to ensure compliance with standards, eg the Global Organic Textile Standard.

Brands rated by Good On You that score well for the planet include timeless accessories label BEEN London (Great) that uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials including recycled materials and manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint. LA label, Whimsy + Row (Good), produces quality garments locally using recycled fabrics and eco-friendly packaging. Sportswear giant, Adidas (Good), uses recycled materials and has set an absolute target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations.

Impact on animals

For our animal ratings we consider how well a brand traces its animal products and its animal welfare policies. We identify the use of fur, angora, down feather, shearling, karakul, and exotic animal skin and hair. We also consider if wool has been produced using ‘mulesing’ and whether and how the brand uses leather.

Brands that want to protect the welfare of animals should:

  1. Consider going vegan—build a label without the use of animal materials
  2. Use upcycled and recycled materials—good for animals and the environment
  3. Avoid non-domesticated animal materials such as python and crocodile
  4. Avoid harmful practices in the supply chain like sheep mulesing, or materials with inherent cruelty like karukul, shearling, and angora
  5. Use certification schemes to ensure compliance with standards, eg PETA-approved

When it comes to animals, we rate brands like A_C (Good), producing cruelty-free vegan leather handbags and accessories. All garments made by modern streetwear brand Plant Faced Clothing (Good) are PETA certified vegan.

For a closer look at our approach and the issues we consider when rating a brand, refer to the Guide to the Good On You rating system. Want to collaborate to reach conscious shoppers? Head over to Good On You for more information.

If you're a consumer, consider gauging a brand's impact on people, animals, and the planet before purchasing. And if you're a fashion brand, we urge you to run an audit on your impact and set goals to improve. It is more important than ever for all of us to stand together as a united front of sustainability in fashion and other industries, and realise that our choices every day can help to change the world for the better.

Isobella Wolfe is a content manager at Good On You. Good On You is the world's leading source for fashion brand ratings. Good On You pulls all the information together and uses expert analysis to give fashion brands easy to understand scores so you can feel good about your purchases.