MILAN — “In the world of sustainability now more than ever the expression ‘divide and conquer’ has to apply,” Livia Firth told WWD, meaning that everyone has to do their part in order to foster a more sustainable fashion landscape.
Building bridges and joining forces was the rationale behind the latest partnership Firth’s consultancy Eco-Age has forged with Good On You, a platform that audits and ranks fashion brands according to their sustainable achievements.
As part of the tie-up, Eco-Age will leverage the Good On You methodology to assess its clients’ progress as “an excuse” to push them to do better, while in turn the platform will direct brands with very low rankings to Eco-Age to accelerate their sustainable journey.
“Every partnership that works needs to make sense for both partners, so you have to work with people who are like-minded and with whom you are aligned in your mission. That is the number-one [priority],” Firth said about the partnership.
Sandra Capponi, cofounder of Good On You, agreed. “It’s really about partnering for change. To truly shift the dial on sustainability in fashion, we need to align and to collaborate. The issues are so complex and wide-ranging, and people are becoming more confused about what to do,” she said.
Good On You audits brands by collecting all the available information across environmental and social sustainability, as well as animal welfare, assigning each brand a score that spans from 1 to 5, or from “We Avoid” for the less advanced brands to “Great” for those that champion sustainability. Capponi said despite the easy-to-use rating system, the platform actually takes into account 100 issues and more than 500 data points for each brand, including third-party indices.
“Brands come to us all the time asking how they can improve their Good On You rating and engage with their customers on these issues. Now, through this partnership, we can help them transform their business practices and communications in a way that informs consumer purchases and at the end of the day creates better outcomes for people and the planet,” Capponi offered, touting the expertise of Eco-Age.
Firth acknowledged that a lot has already changed in the past few years and that sustainability has been even fueled by the pandemic.
“What this year of the pandemic brought us to is that finally, and this has been the most complicated piece in the puzzle, some of the brands have started to understand that sustainability is a lot about social responsibility more than environmental, which is almost like the consequence of social. This is what is really starting to shift,” she noted.
The rationale behind such a partnership is to urge brands to do better and communicate precisely each accomplishment.
“One of the issues we face today is that either brands are over-promising on their web sites, as are lots of fast fashion brands, or they are very secretive on the other end, like lots of luxury brands,” said Firth.
She said frankly that fast fashion is to blame for this misrepresentation of the fashion industry as one that provides untrue information.
Asking herself how Eco-Age could encourage brands to start speaking out about their progress truthfully, she found in Good On You a great partner “mostly for luxury brands to try and come out of their secret world.”
Capponi believes brands should start by “just focusing on one or two areas at a time, on things that make the most sense for your business, where you can have the biggest impact.”
“Above all, no matter where you are at in tackling sustainability, talk about it with your customers. People want to know and are keen to support brands that are taking steps in the right direction. And when we empower consumer choices, we can create so much more positive change,” she added.
There’s also a consumer-facing implication as Good On You was established in 2015 in Australia as a platform to help customers understand where each brand stood in its sustainable journey.
“If I could put a coin for every time that someone has asked me, ‘So, what do I do? Which brands should I shop?,’ [I’d be richer],” Firth said. “So far the solution has been, rather than choosing which brand to buy, why don’t you just try not to buy too much and ask yourself the 30-wear rule, so to say, ‘Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?’”
A closer look at the Good On You platform shows that a lot of smaller brands are ranked better than luxury juggernauts and bigger businesses.
Firth thinks she knows the reason why.
“There’s only one answer, and it’s that they [the bigger brands] don’t care because profit comes first. We can only hope that now that things are changing, that there’s a new fresh air also in the U.S., hopefully we’re going to start a transformation and these brands won’t be able to behave like this anymore. We have to hold them accountable,” she said.