We all want the same thing: beautifully designed clothes from a company that treats its workers fairly and minimizes its impact on the environment. Yet only 10 percent of fashion brands include life-cycle assessment into their product design, according to a report from GoodGuide, a watchdog group that evaluated 182 apparel companies such as Levi Strauss, Nike, Timberland, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton based on environmental, social, and health performance. A mere 9 percent publicly disclose the names of their suppliers, and just two—Alta Gracia and American Apparel—have stated their commitment to paying a living wage, documented what counts as a living wage, and provided evidence that their workers are indeed making a living wage.
HAUTE OR NOT?
Founded in 2007, GoodGuide describes itself as a “for-benefit” enterprise that helps consumers use their buying power for good rather than evil. Rating everything from aftershave to minivans, GoodGuide’s database currently includes 1-10 scores for 100,000 products and brands.
GoodGuide’s researchers spent eight months assessing the supply chains of nearly 190 apparel companies.
To tackle the apparel category, its scientific and technology experts spent eight months assessing the supply chains of nearly 190 apparel companies. Those that didn’t do so well are popular lines like Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Guess, and Prada, all of which rated poorly for policies such as climate change, water conservation, workplace diversity, compensation, and transparency.
If you’re looking to buy gear from some of the highest-rated brands, check out Patagonia, Levi Strauss, Nike, and American Apparel, which did well on reducing carbon emissions, minimizing energy use, and being standup employers, among other factors.
HOW TO BUY
GoodGuide also offers suggestions on what to look for—and conversely, what to avoid—when you’re out shopping. Just because a brand is prestigious or priced high doesn’t mean that its products are manufactured in a socially or environmentally responsible way. “Avoid brands that do not disclose information about where their products are produced,” it suggests, “or how they monitor working conditions in their supply chain.”
Your garment’s use phase” contributes a significant part of its overall environmental damage.
In addition, the website notes that your garment’s post-purchase “use phase,” including washing, drying, and ironing, contributes a significant part of its overall environmental damage. Caring for your clothes means that they last longer and stay out of landfills. GoodGuide’s last bit of advice: “Read (and follow) the care instructions,” it says. “Garments are often washed more than necessary and this increases water and energy consumption.”