Why Brand Transparency Matters
Labor, believe it or not, wasn’t instituted as a day dedicated to BBQs. Gasp!
As we’re relaxing over Labor Day weekend, we’re honoring the real contributions that we often overlook but that we literally couldn’t live without and make the USA star spangledly excellent.
When we think about, it’s touching to realize just how mainstream caring about the conditions of people laboring on the products we buy has become.
Transparency rules and surveys prove it. Before people buy stuff, they’re pausing to check that the brands they choose are being open about the way they treat their workers.
This is a part of the factory-to-shelf backstory of what happened before your product even got delivered. Who made it? What’s it made of? How’d it get here?
It’s the perfect time to spotlight the woke consumer passion for transparency.
And here’s ours! These are the brand values that we’re prioritizing on shopstreet.com:
Ethical Factory Practices
Made in USA
We Give Back
Let’s not forget the power of our user community’s personal take, which we’re seeing in the reviews they post. Most shoppers today don’t buy anything before checking out what fellow consumers experienced and if it stacked up to company promises, and ShopStreet users are no different.
T-R-A-N-S-P-A-R-A-N-C-Y, Find Out What It Means To Me
Conscious consumerism- the idea that you buy into the values of a brand that appeal to you, not just its products- is behind the shopper interest in brand transparency.
It’s a super broad concept and can include sharing by brands on how they get to the price they pick for their products, and brands coming clean about mistakes.
And we love a good exposé.
Collective outrage over a catalog of unsavory celebrity, institutional, and corporate behavior, has also fueled our obsession with exposing wrongdoing and telling it like it is. Just look at the scandals over Instagram influencers letting followers know when they’re paid to post.
No one (or corporation) is off the hook.
Today’s savvy and vocal consumers, empowered by choice and information, are shining a spotlight on corporate actions of all sorts.
They want brands to be more accountable about things like costs of materials and labor. And they’re fine with outing brands on social media that they feel don’t comply.
In fashion, copycats are increasingly called out this way. Diet_prada is an Instagram account that boldly names brands that have lifted styles from other designers. It has 1.5 million followers. The profile reads: “ppl knocking each other off lol”!
In the environmental world, non-profits are helping ‘super consumers’ stay in the loop. Green America’s 2019 Toxic Textiles Report names and shames brands using restricted chemicals. It also gives a pat on the back to Target, VF (The North Face and Jansport), and Nike for having better environmental and labor practices.
In hospitality, TripAdvisor wants to flag reports of sexual harassment at hotels, parks, or activities listed on their website.
And they couldn’t do it without the power of tech.
It’s predicted that tech innovation will lead to transparency wars between competing brands.
Can being woke and turning a profit mesh?
At the surface, woke-ness is often misconstrued as needing to have contempt for profits and all things $$$. The Prince and Princess of Woke – Harry and Megan – have come under fire for some of their lux habits, despite the fact that they back basically every cause.
But in 2019, these two things can play nice.
That’s because the underlying issue is trust. We want to know that a brand does what they claim and makes claims we can get behind. If they do, they can have our wallet.
Even better, they earn our loyalty – which has been nearly unattainable for brands since the recession in 2008. So it’s a win-win.
And it pays for brands to listen.
It’s actually amazing that the fashion world, famous for its love for short-lived fads, is making the kinds of gigantic strides in pushing for transparency that other industries can only hope for.
Luxury conglomerate LVMH, which includes brands like Louis Vuitton, announced in July that it was working with eco-conscious designer Stella McCartney with her label’s ethical focus as a “decisive” factor.
French luxury group Kering (owner of Gucci) will now only hire catwalk models aged 18+. Which is perfect timing, given the recent massive scandals about Jeffrey Epstein and his buddies.
Ever since the 2013 Rana Plaza factory inferno in Bangladesh, when over 1,100 people working in terrible conditions died in the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry, everything’s changed.
Carry Somers founded the Fashion Revolution organization in the aftermath of the Rana tragedy. Her goal was to get people focused on supply-chain transparency and to tackle the exploitative use of cheap foreign labor.
But there’s still a ways to go.
A recent ABC exposé on Uyghur workers in China shows that global brands stand an increasing risk of having products made by forced labor somewhere in their supply chains.
Somers says her group’s efforts at encouraging transparency- especially via its annual survey of top global fashion brands- have started to pay off.
The group’s Fashion Transparency Index sees Adidas, Patagonia & Reebok in a three-way tie for the most transparent of 200 global brands surveyed. For Somers, it’s simple. Consumers need to flex their muscles at these brands by asking them “who made my clothes?”
Transparency benefits the companies also.
It helps workers by getting issues remedied much faster. And it protects brands if one of their suppliers has contracted to a factory that isn’t complying with a minimum of labor protection standards.
Somers appreciates that brands are starting to disclose more. Chanel published its first ever “REPORT TO SOCIETY” in 2018, admitting a u-turn in their communications strategy: bye to being discreet to create mystique and a narrow product focus, and hello to sharing greener practices and their partnerships with civil society, stakeholders, and brands.
Brand Transparency Trailblazers You Need to Know About
We’re giving a standing ovation.
There are some brands that go all out to share what they’re doing.
This kind of ultra-accounting to shoppers is often called “radical transparency.” It makes these brands more likely to connect with purpose-driven consumers.
A great example is Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, which shares information on its products, production costs, and even employee pay.
One brand shaking things up is San-Francisco apparel company Everlane. They spell it out: “We believe we can all make a difference. Our way: Exceptional Quality. Ethical Factories. Radical Transparency.”
Look up any item of clothing, and the brand tells its story. Each product description on the Everlane website includes details on the factory where the item was made and photos, plus customers get insights into costs like transport, labor, duties, and mark-up.
Even this trailblazing brand, however, has been found to have gaps in its publicly available information. Fashion brand rating site, Good on You, gave it a ‘Not Good Enough’ score in 2018. The site praises Everlane’s rejection of “passing trends” though, and its focus on classic, well-made designs that are more likely to be worn for longer, a key characteristic of ethical fashion.
Mainstream clothing brand H&M is making transparency waves too. H&M has a history of bringing sustainability into mainstream fashion. In April 2019, the brand began sharing details on the production country, supplier, and factory names for all the garments it sells across its 47 markets.
The work H&M has done over the past 12 months has helped the group rank among the top five brands in Fashion Revolution’s 2019 Fashion Transparency Index (see above).
Transparency is overwhelming but empowering. Even small decisions to buy or not buy can have major ramifications on the practices of the mega-brands. Whether or not you’re on an assembly line, demanding higher standards for those who are, has benefits that trickle all the way down to your closet.
Feeling curious about the openness of your brands? Check them and similar brands out on ShopStreet.com now.