Good On You, the largest customer-facing app and database of fashion brands – big and small – rated for sustainability credentials, has just released ratings for more than 500 European brands, making it easier than ever to shop ethically on the high street and beyond.
Launched in 2015 in Australia, the folk behind the app sensed something big in the offing when, within 8 days of the launch, over 10,000 people had downloaded the app. After a US launch last year, the step into Europe is the next logical move, taking the total tally of brands rated to 2,000.
Brand ratings range from the lowest at 1 (‘we avoid’) to the highest at 5 (‘great’). Data is taken from more than 50 publicly available information. The research is published as a summary along with the ratings. Practicality is key: shoppers are given the ability to discover similar brands that match their preferences for style but that do better on the issues they are about as well as direct ways to reach out to brands – either to thank or to catechise them.
I talk to Sandra Capponi, Good on You’s Co-Founder & Head of Development, about this latest chapter in the app’s already full life.
Tell me about the genesis of the app.
I was extremely lucky meet [co-founder] Gordon Renouf in 2016. He’d already run a crowd funding campaign and tested the market in Australia. I’d worked in banking and in CSR for many years and saw so much many of the challenges in many of the industries – including fashion. I’ve always loved fashion but, the more I learned about what was happening behind the scenes at the big labels, the more uncomfortable I felt, wearing what I was wearing. I was looking for solutions like Good on You and then met Gordon.
Our vision is to help shoppers make a difference every time they shop
What’s your criteria for sustainability?
We start by looking at the issues shoppers care about. That’s people – labour rights issues. The planet or environmental issues. And thirdly, animal rights issues. That’s often missed in lots of indicators for sustainability but it’s increasingly important for a large group of shoppers.
What I like is the ability for shoppers to communicate directly with brands.
Sustainability means different things to different people. We’re not telling people what to do with the information. We’re giving them information that allows them to make shopping decisions that match their values. Vegans, for example, will be highly motivated by the animal score on the rating system.
Linked to that is the idea of empowerment: people wanting to tell brands what they think about them and that these issues are important. Ultimately, our vision is to help shoppers make a difference every time they shop but at the same time, drive the industry to change, to recognise that this is top of mind for shoppers. If they don’t respond, they will lose customers – but there’s a huge opportunity to gain customers by doing the right thing.
How has the ethical landscape changed in the last two years?
There’s huge amount of momentum around these issues, both in terms of consumer awareness and the industry’s response and action. We’ve had users from all over the world contacting us, asking us to be more present and rate more brands. That’s a reflection of the demand that’s out there. Fashion Revolution, which raises awareness and gives people a voice on these issues, had their biggest year yet this year. Whether it be people wanting to use Good on You or discussions on social media or even traditional media picking up on stories, they’re all examples of these growing sentiments. At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, there were a thousand industry people talking about the issues and what systemic, practical and innovative changes were needed for the industry to move forward.
You rate larger and smaller brands.
It goes back to the point where we put the shopper first. We prioritise brands that shoppers want to see, the mainstream brands. But the good thing that Good On You offers is not just rating these brands but helping you discover ethical alternatives. So we also prioritise brands that are really showing leadership on sustainability issues. They may be smaller or lesser known but we prioritise rating those to give our users the chance to discover better options.
There’s huge amount of momentum around these issues, both in terms of consumer awareness and the industry’s response.
Who’s the target market?
Generally young women aged 25 to 35. That’s representative of the industry in general but also of the conscious consumer movement. Within that are two groups. The first are actively engaged on issues; we offer an easy solution for them. The other may not always be across the complexity of these issues or be proactive in research but, when they are made aware that their shopping choices don’t match their values, they feel bad. The app helps them see there are options out there that match their values but also style and price.
Is ethical design improving – or is the culture of shopping changing?
Probably a combination of both. We need to break down the myth that ethical fashion is not fashionable. There are some really cool designers [who are] leading on sustainability and ethics. They’re also rethinking the whole business model of putting out collections all the time, focussing instead on statement pieces where they just update the fabrics.
Earlier this year, Vogue Australia invited Emma Watson to guest-edit their March edition – and she turned to you to make sure the brands she was showcasing lived up to her standards of sustainability and ethical sourcing. What was the impact of this partnership?
Many of the brands suggested for the shoot had not been assessed yet, and didn’t always publish all the details of their sustainability practices. We encouraged brands to put their best foot forward in terms of telling their ethical story. Several commented that they found great value in our encouragement to be more transparent and our advice about how to do it. One label made the decision to publish more about their practices as a result and improve its transparency — which is a great outcome for everybody. [The Vogue Australia issue] is a major turning point for sustainable fashion. It’s now officially mainstream. And that’s because of leaders like Emma Watson, Vogue’s Edwina McCann, campaigns like Fashion Revolution and everyone who has got involved in the massive ethical fashion movement that we at Good On You proud to be a part of.
Is it possible for a big brand to rate ‘great’?
We already have a handful of examples. The obvious ones are Patagonia, Adidas and Stella McCartney that, for some time, have been investing in key sustainability issues. They’re very different. As a vegetarian, Stella has a commitment to non-leather products. Adidas is investing in reducing impact and labour rights issues. They’re two of the biggest brands in the world responding to what consumers want.
Where do you see the app in five years’?
We have a big ambition in the next two years to rate 10,000 brands and to reach 5 million users globally. We want to make it easy for people everywhere to shop the way they want to shop. That means rating lots of brands and having a global reach and appeal. Because this is a global problem and a global industry. If we want to shift it, we need to tap into the power of the shopper collective all over the world.