SYDNEY – Australian ethical fashion rating app Good On You, 16 month-old startup that rates more than 1,000 international brands and has 40,000 registered users in its home market, is expanding into North America.
The Sydney-based non profit Ethical Consumers Australia quietly launched a U.S./Canadian version of the free app on the iTunes store and Google Play on Wednesday.
There are 800 brands rated on the North American version of the app, which uses a five-point system to rank brands based on their transparency and policies in three areas: Labor, the environment and animal welfare.
Consumers can tweak their preferences to give greater weight to one or more of these core areas, and also offer feedback to brands directly from the app.
According to Good On You co-founder and head of development, Sandra Capponi, the company is on target to achieve 100,000 registered North American users by the end of April and will add more U.S. brands over time.
Good On You’s 1 to 5 point ranking is based on aggregated information from 60 independent global certifications and standards systems, including Greenpeace, Baptist World Aid’s Australian Fashion Report, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and Social Accountability International’s SA8000 standard.
This information is supplemented with the brands’ own publicly reported policies.
Great is the highest rating, with five points, followed by Good (four), It’s a start (three), Not good enough (two) and finally, We avoid (one).
“Most people want to buy better, we just don’t know where to start,” said Good On You co-founder and chief executive officer Gordon Renouf. “We want to change the way people buy fashion so that businesses have strong incentives to be more sustainable and fair.”
Where a brand’s rating is poor, Good On You suggests better-ranked alternatives and also runs promotional offers with select brands ranked Good or Great, taking a 10 percent sales commission.
Just 100 of the 800 brands offered on the North American site are rated Good or Great. They include Patagonia, Reebok, Adidas, Uniqlo, Stella McCartney, Warby Parker, Conscious Clothing and Study New York.
Zara, H&M, Topshop, Levi’s, Hanes and Puma are rated It’s a start, while Billabong, Rip Curl, Quicksilver, Nike, Cotton On, Calvin Klein, Chloe, Gucci, Michael Kors, Target, Kmart, Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom and Macy’s are rated Not Good Enough.
The worst-rated, We Avoid, brands include Chanel, Skechers, Louis Vuitton, Rebecca Taylor, Marc Jacobs and 2XU.
According to Capponi, the company will soon open a formal seed round of investment in a bid to fast-track development plans, including launching beauty brands onto the platform by the end of 2017; introducing a Retailers Near Me geo-location technology and an enhanced search function that will enable users to drill down to specific product categories such as vegan or organic.
Brands have mixed feelings about the rankings. Good-rated Sydney-based organic bamboo ecowear company Boody, which sells through more than 500 U.S. doors and is included in the U.S. app, said Good On You had created “substantial awareness” for the brand.
“It’s increased our online sales and also awareness of our brand in stores,” said Boody Australia general manager Shaun Greenblo.
A representative of one well-known Australian brand with global operations which was rated Not Good Enough after scoring a low environmental rating, said the poor rating had had no impact on sales. He added he was perplexed by the rating, as the company had won multiple awards for its environmental work.
“We made a very deliberate decision to work with who we think is most credible out there and that’s Baptist World Aid Australia (which gave the brand a mid-range ‘C’ rating in 2016),” said the representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “A lot of these others are just going out and saying we’ve had a flip around the website and we rate you as ‘X’ and that worries us.”
According to a Good On You rep, a company’s entire supply chain is taken into account, not just standalone initiatives.
Good On You is seeking to capitalize on the burgeoning ethical consumer segment, which in the U.K. market alone grew an average 8.5 percent across all categories to 38 billion pounds, or $58 billion, in 2015. That figure is double the country’s tobacco market according to the Ethical Consumer/Triodos Bank 2016 Ethical Consumer Markets Report.
According to MINTEL’s 2015 Ethical Consumer U.S. survey, 56 percent of U.S. consumers have stopped buying from companies they believe are unethical, with 63 percent of respondents reporting that they think ethical issues are becoming more important.
However consumers are also becoming increasingly skeptical about ethical marketing. According to MINTEL’s North America Consumer Trends 2017 report, 61 percent of respondents said they believe there should be more regulation around ethical claims.