Do clothing brands achieve sustainability?
In the last five years, most well-known clothing companies have set themselves sustainability goals and shown how they intend to achieve them. Some publish annual reports on their progress. However, it is not easy to determine whether a company is sustainable, as there is no clear definition or standardized data.
Apparel companies typically define sustainability narrowly, focusing on impact on the environment – ie avoiding the depletion of natural resources. By doing this, big brands are making strides. However, nonprofit organizations that monitor compliance often take a broader perspective, looking at economic, social, and environmental factors.
good on you is a sustainability rating platform for fashion companies. It rates brands on the following scale: Great, Good, It’s a Start, Not Good Enough, and We Avoid.
Founded in Australia, Good On You defines itself as “…the world’s leading source of fashion brand reviews…using expert analysis to give each brand an easy-to-understand rating.”
It conforms to the sustainable development of the United Nations target 12 to “ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns”. In addition to environmental impact, Good On You considers how companies treat employees, contractors and animals.
Below I share what brands are saying about their sustainability efforts and their reviews of Good On You.
Assessing the sustainability of brands
Kering, a Paris-based luxury fashion conglomerate, has made strides in sustainability. Brands include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.
Kering’s Environmental Profit & Loss account guides its sustainable business model. It assigns a monetary value to its environmental footprint throughout its supply chain. The company aims to reduce negative environmental impacts from raw material sourcing, manufacturing and transportation by 40% between 2015 and 2025.
In 2013, Kering established a Materials Innovation Lab, a library of sustainable fabric and textile samples that its creative teams could access to select materials. In 2021, Kering announced that none of its brands would use animal skins, starting with the fall 2022 collections.
The company also plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2025. It operates a carbon offset program through REDD+, an effort to combat deforestation. In 2019, Kering committed to making its brands carbon neutral by offsetting annual greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2017, audits show an annual reduction of several thousand tons of carbon emissions.
Good On You rates Alexander McQueen, Gucci and Saint Laurent “It’s a Start” and Balenciaga “Good”.
LVMH, Also based in Paris, is a luxury goods company with brands in six sectors: Wines & Spirits, Fashion & Leather, Watches & Jewelry, and Perfumes & Cosmetics – including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Bulgari, Tiffany, Moet Hennessy and TAG Heuer.
The LIFE program – LVMH Initiatives For the Environment – is the conglomerate’s program for initiatives to improve environmental performance. Its jewelry brands are committed to responsible sourcing of raw materials.
Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy have stated that they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by their supply chain by a certain percentage, but have not provided any evidence that they are meeting their target.
Good On You rates Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy as “not good enough” for using few eco-friendly materials.
Stella McCartney. This London-based clothing, footwear and accessories brand is a pioneer in ethical and sustainable design and manufacturing. It promotes cruelty-free processes and manufacturing and aims to achieve a fully circular economy using renewable or recyclable raw materials.
It is committed to preventing deforestation in its supply chain and continuously monitors its suppliers for compliance with its policies. It measures and reports both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.
Good On You gives Stella McCartney a Good rating.
Levi’s. Headquartered in San Francisco, Levi’s is committed to recycling and reselling its jeans. It has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and supply chain and appears to be on track to meet its goals. The production of denim jeans is very water-intensive. Levi’s has sought to reduce water use throughout its supply chain. It has also implemented an animal welfare policy.
Good on You rates Levi’s It’s a Start.
Nike. Each year, Nike publishes an impact report detailing its sustainability efforts. The goals are to eliminate waste in the manufacturing process, reduce water consumption in the supply chain and improve working conditions for workers. It has a deadline to eliminate hazardous chemicals by 2025 and is on track to meet it.
Good On You rates Nike “It’s a Start”.