Why brands can now self-assess

The data required to incisively rate brands is ultimately in the possession of brands themselves. Brands can now provide this data to Fairify. By focusing on verifying, we can assess them better, faster, and provide more value to consumers and businesses.

Lars Dinjens24 March 2021

Gathering sustainability information about brands takes an awful lot of time. Up until this point, we used to collect the information that the brand communicates on its website or Sustainability Report and feed that information into the framework. No information simply equals no points. While this does eliminate greenwashing and provides us with the most comprehensive and transparent brand ratings in the world, there are also several problems that we have encountered while using this method: 

1. Scale

First, it is incredibly time-consuming to gather information from all these brands. Websites and Sustainability Reports are structured in different ways and each brand chooses its own way to tell its sustainability story in a way that makes them look as good as possible.  It is not unusual at all that brands selectively provide information, play with statistics and greenwash communication. Finding quality data can be looking for a needle in a haystack, making information gathering incredibly time-consuming. We have definitely looked into AI and big data analysis to speed up this process, but for now, have concluded that actually obtaining quality data makes a lot more sense.

2. Lack of an adversarial process

Adversarial reporting is one of the most important journalistic core values. While we firmly believe that, considering the giant malpractices in the fashion industry, brands have a responsibility to communicate factually accurate information about their production methods on their own channels, we also understand that this is a challenging and complex process. Up until now, we’d only award points for the information that we can find within the communication of brands themselves. However, in our talks with brands, we have encountered multiple situations in which we were missing information on a specific item that prevented us from awarding points, which brand owners did seem to have to their disposal and be willing to share. By allowing brands to contribute and publish this information, we can make use of it and therefore make a better assessment.

3. Distinguishing small and large brands

What is additionally difficult about this method is distinguishing between small and large brands. For most brands, sustainability is just one component of having a fashion brand. When a brand grows, its resources to deal with sustainability grow as well. The method of rating brands based on the information that they provide in their communication works great with big brands because they have the means to communicate the information about how they do business. Should small and medium-sized brands be rated the same way? Yes and no. Sure, bigger brands carry greater responsibility. But small brands are prone to the same risks and production processes. In other rating systems, we have seen that small and medium-sized brands have to demonstrate much less information. Bottom line: it’s a challenge for both large and small brands to map their own production chain, but they are both equally responsible for their own production process. We, therefore, believe that there must be a method that is applicable to both small and large brands.

4. Verifying this information

Verifying the information that we find from brands themselves has been on the top of our to-do list for months. With the rise of greenwashing and the risk of reputation damage that transparent data poses brands there is a prominent risk that the provided data is untruthful. This remains a problem. Brands can tell us that they pay a certain percentage of workers in its supply chain a living wage, but if we have not spoken to the workers of these factories who are able to show us their payslips, it remains difficult to definitely validate this data.

The next step that defines sustainability

To solve the above problems and take the next step in assessing brands in the most qualitative way possible, a method is needed that goes beyond what we have done to assess brands thus far. This method should be faster, even more in-depth, include adversarial techniques, level the playing field for small and large brands, and be able to better verify the data inputs. This is the Fairify Sustainability Scan.

This scan is the first completely transparent framework that quantifies sustainability. By dividing every subject of sustainability into measurable, actionable steps each company can self-assess to gain insight into where they are in their sustainability journey. It allows us to achieve ratings for every single element of sustainability of the brands that take the scan. We have invited NGOs, scientists, researchers, sustainability entrepreneurs, and other industry experts with practical experience to contribute to this system in order to arrive at an industry-wide definition that everyone can support.

Companies can log into their own dashboard where they can self-assess by simply answering questions about their brand. After about 60 minutes brands know – for free – exactly how sustainable they really are. Every fashion brand can create an account and provide information about its operations and big brands are invited to provide information to this system to ‘up’ their score.

With the knowledge we gained from manually assessing the first batch of brands that is available on our website, we were able to identify exactly what steps brands can take to become more sustainable. It now serves as a roadmap in which we lay out the steps that brands can take, quantify them and award points progressively through a point system. Because sustainability is dynamic and new knowledge and technological advancements are made, the framework will be updated from time to time to keep up with the industry and move it forward. This means that we now have three core tasks at Fairify:

1. Identification of the steps that companies can and must take to become more sustainable

2. Determining the weight of these steps relative to the total and determining when a brand qualifies as sustainable.

3. Verifying the input of companies and further developing this process to obtain the highest quality data possible. We have been verifying brands’ information with the information we can find in reports, labels, and other sources from the start. But we are now taking this one step further with more and better API-connections and are exploring the possibilities for uploading evidence to the tool.

What does this mean for consumers that use Fairify?

That you get much more specific data to your disposal to base your sustainable choices on. In the near future, we can inform you more specifically about the components that you care about like filtering for the highest performers on chemicals, people, or other specific subjects, making sustainable consumption a little easier. Because we offer this tool to companies for free, we can also implement more companies which means that brands are added to the database faster and are updated more frequently resulting in more options and more sustainable alternatives to base your decision on.

What does this mean for brands?

By developing a tool that offers brands to supply their own information, we, first of all, have a solution for an adversarial process. Every brand, no matter the size, now has the opportunity to provide information, increase transparency and demonstrate the level of sustainable production.

This fits within our constructive approach to sustainability. It is our mission to ultimately reduce the impact of the industry on people, the planet, and animals. We do this in the first place by communicating sustainability to consumers that allows them to make decisions based on sustainability. But with the knowledge that we have and the tool that allows brands to provide information, we have all the ingredients to take this a step further and actually help companies in their journey. When a small brand is not yet rated sustainable, we analyze the brand to identify where improvements are possible and reach out to help them improve. When brands repeatedly refuse to contribute, we can decide to add brands to our extension and website with the information we can find, because we think that these brands have consciously chosen not to take responsibility for their own production process.

In short, there are two options for brands:

-   A sustainable rating (A or B): The brand will be included in the browser extension and website. These brands are offered a membership with Fairify that includes a badge, scorecard, and the possibility for a Sustainability Report.  

-   A non-sustainable rating (C or lower): These brands are not yet included in the extension and website. We will discuss the possibilities of publication and how Fairify can help with increasing sustainability. We offer help in the form of a Sustainability Report, an advisory report, or tailored advice.

Either way, the brands that are part of Fairify have year-round access to the platform that serves as a dashboard to measure, identify and improve early functionalities and help determine which functionalities are developed to make sustainability even easier. In the next blog, we will elaborate on what Fairify can specifically offer brands.

Conclusion

It is a small optimization in our course that we have made based on the experience we have gained from the first version of Fairify. With this iteration, we go one step further in defining and quantifying sustainability to counteract greenwashing and provide more value to consumers, but also to brands who we are now providing with the tools for improvement. Everyone wins.

Are you a brand and do you want to find out how sustainable your brand truly is? Contact us directly or check out the possibilities on our brand-new page for brands: www.fairify.io/for-brands

Do you have any questions, comments, or feedback about this method? We are happy to discuss them with you. Contact us at hello@fairify.io

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