Radical Transparency in Fashion. It’s Closer Than You Think.
What if it was easy to know where, when, and how a garment was made, to determine how ethically it was created? Welcome to the Good On You, a new fashion app that plans to change the way we shop.
As we head into New York Fashion Week, we caught up with Good On You founders Sandra Capponi and Gordon Renouf to learn more about how this app will help create a happier, better world through the power of transparency.
Good On You: App
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Download the app here.
Q: Why Good On You?
CAPPONI: For a long time I’d been thinking about the impact people have on the world, the good and the bad, especially in big business.
I’ve always loved fashion, but the stories I kept hearing about what’s going on behind the scenes of major labels made me start to question if I was comfortable wearing clothes without knowing how they were made.
the stories I kept hearing made me start to question if I was comfortable wearing clothes without knowing how they were made
I spent many years working in the corporate sector, trying push the social responsibility of businesses from within. But more recently I started to think about the responsibility I have as an individual, and the power that each of us has to change things for the better just by the everyday choices we make — including the clothes we buy.
RENOUF: Our vision is for a world where consumer choices drive brands to be sustainable and fair.
We know that most people care about doing the right thing by the planet, other people, and animals —- provided their own legitimate needs are met. We empower people to easily take account of the issues they care about when they shop.
We know that most people care about doing the right thing
People want access to easy to use, ethical information when they are shopping — whether online or in store.
They also want to discover new brands that are doing things in a more sustainable way.
They want to discover new brands that are doing things in a sustainable way
CAPPONI: Research tells us that most of us want to make more ethical choices when we shop — so long as it’s easy! But right now it’s just too hard to know the impact of brands on workers, the environment, and animals.
The Good On You app gives the information we need right at our fingertips to make better decisions that match our values. Shoppers can use the app to see how their favorite brands rate and discover new brands that do better on the issues they care about.
We realize that it’s not just about the ethics when it comes to fashion. At the end of the day many of us still care a lot about price and of course style! But Good On You helps you find more ethical options so looking good doesn’t have to come at the expense of people and the planet.
We make it easy, so looking good doesn’t have to come at the expense of others
Q: Why is sustainable fashion so important?
RENOUF: Many of the important social and environmental problems of the world today are ultimately driven by our shopping choices. What gets made and sold in large quantities is determined by whether or not we as consumers want to buy. When we empower shoppers to act on their values, we can influence what gets bought and so ultimately the way our clothes are made.
we can all influence the way clothes are made
Globally, one in six people (80 per cent of them women) work in the apparel sector, where labor abuses and factory disasters are common. A $2.5 trillion industry, fashion is also one of the most polluting in the world. It’s responsible for 24 per cent of the world’s pesticide use and is a major contributor to climate change and water pollution.
CAPPONI: I imagine a future where people everywhere are using Good On You as second nature to make shopping decisions based on the things that matter most to them — from discovering the latest trends and finding a bargain buy to making sure no women or children were exploited in the making of their clothes. And ultimately, fashion brands are totally transparent about how they make their products while living up to the ethical standards that each of us expect.
Q: The Good On You app helps users know the impact of brands, and makes suggestions for better rated brands, but how does it have an impact on the issues that you and your users care about?
RENOUF: We get a lot of app users writing in or posting on social media saying they are so grateful for the app, that they wouldn’t shop without it, and that it helps them find new ethical and sustainable brands to replace brands they discovered are not meeting their expectations on sustainability issues. It’s a key part of our approach that we empower people to do what they already want to do, but find too challenging.
As we empower more and more shoppers to make sustainable choices, brands are taking notice. More and more brands have contacted us to ensure that we are aware if all the things they are doing right — to ensure get the highest rating they deserve.
brands are taking notice
We’re not the only organization pressuring fashion brands to do better on all or some of these issues, but we aim to be the one that offers the most practical day-to-day assistance to the largest number of shoppers, and for many brands we offer practical guidance on how they can do better.
A focus on impact is at the core of what we do. We’re not here to help the most activist two per cent of people find the absolute best strategies and super ethical brands. We’re here to empower a majority of shoppers to act on their underlying belief that they should do what they can to make the world a better place, while also meeting their own needs. Sometimes that means choosing a brand better than average on sustainability rather than one that’s perfect.
Q: What are the issues looked at in your brand rating methodology? And how do you research brands?
CAPPONI: Good On You understands that “ethical” means different things to different people.
The Good On You brand rating system looks at three main issues that we know are important to shoppers — how a brand treats its workers, the environment and animals. We take into account publicly available information from more than 50 certifications schemes and standards systems together with the company’s reported data. We present that information in a simple, easy to understand 5 tier rating, from 1 (We Avoid) to 5 (Great). Then its up to you as the consumer to decide what matters to you most and how you want to act on that information.
We understand that “ethical” means different things to different people
Q: Have you had any feedback from brands included on Good On You? And on the other hand, what can you do for the most sustainable brands?
CAPPONI: Yes, brands often contact us wanting to know how they can improve their rating. In some instances, we find that brands simply are not communicating to the public about all the good that they do and we guide them on how to be more transparent. In other instances brands work with us to determine how they can improve their practices to avoid harm.
There are many examples where we’re supported and collaborated with brands to improve their transparency and business operations to be more sustainable and fair.
We also aim to be transparent ourselves, publishing details of our brands rating methodology and welcoming feedback from brands and other industry experts.
Of course, some brands will inevitably not be happy with their rating — but we believe it’s our job to back the shopper’s right to know!
RENOUF: We see Good On You as the connecting the large and growing sustainable fashion shopping community with the sometimes hard to find brands that are making an effort. Where a way for shoppers to find the brands that meet all their needs, and for brands to find their true audience.
Q: When all’s said and done, what sort of impact do you want Good On You to achieve?
RENOUF: Radical transparency for shoppers! One of our advisers suggested this analogy: imagine you have a super power that means you can know everything about a product that is relevant to you just by looking at it. Add to that the capacity to know and understand what all that information means for you.
This is not possible right now, but there is a broad array of movements and technological innovations that will make it more or less possible sooner or later.
Good On You is using present-day tech to compile data and present it to users, either directly through the app or by making it available to brands and retailers. But right now that’s just the tiny tip of the iceberg. Well-handled and supported by new technological and social developments, this could lead to real change in the power balance between consumers, their fundamental values and the businesses they buy from.
Q: Good On You launched in North America in 2017. How does that impact what you do and how can North Americans start using Good On You?
CAPPONI: Now, more than ever, people around the world want to know what’s going on behind the scenes of big business — including the fast fashion industry. And North Americans are at the forefront of this shift in consumer sentiment. Research tells us that the majority of Americans say they stop buying from brands they believe to be unethical.
people want to know what’s going on behind the scenes of big business
At Good On You, we’ve had great success in Australia and New Zealand over the past 18 months. But in order to really have an impact, we need to scale and build on our community of conscious consumers around the world.
That’s why we’re really excited about launching Good On You in North America as the next important step to achieving our goals — it’s free for download now on iOS and Android.
Q: What’s next?
CAPPONI: More brands, more users, more positive change!
First up, we’re focused on rating many more brands so that Good On You users can access ethical ratings on any retailer they might want to buy from and discover new, better alternatives.
Then our plan is to keep spreading Good On You around the world so we continue to grow and empower the community of conscious shoppers and truly shift the face of the global fashion industry to do good, not cause harm, for people and the planet.
Q: Finally, what else can shoppers do to act on their desire to addresses some of the problems in the fashion industry?
RENOUF: There’s lots of great sources of information like the new Fashion Revolution Podcast, the Project Just site out of New York, and even our Good On You blog. Also check out options like the Fashion Hope clothing drive starting this month (fashionhope.org/clothingdrive) — they take your unwanted clothes — avoiding landfill in the process — and use them to empower women who are victims of trafficking.