03.09.19

These Online Retailers are Helping You Shop Your Values – But is it Just Greenwashing?

Olivia Burton

Shopping has changed dramatically over the last decade. Catering to sustainable values and new digital experiences. Online shopping is soaking up the market with global online retail sales jumping from 7.4% – 8.8% between 2016-18 and it’s set to keep rising.

E-commerce retailers are also starting to gear towards the user experience for eco-minded shoppers, with ‘shop by your values’ becoming big business. It’s no secret that fashion is a damaging industry to people and the planet, therefore shopping from brands that care about something is a positive step forward. 

Image via Good On You

Good On You ethical fashion app

‘Half of digital consumers say environmental concerns impact their purchasing decisions.’ Katie Young, Global Web Index, ‘The Rise of Green Consumerism…’ 2018

Shopping by values, in theory, allows the consumer to easily shop by what they care about: environmentally friendly, ethically made, vegan, local, etc. This allows the consumer to think less and trust the rating system, making the shopping experience much easier.

Good On You ethical fashion app

Shopping by values is not a new concept, with many eco-focused sites having adopted the concept early-on (Well Made Clothes, Biome, ECO.MONO, Brightly). There are also separate report and rating systems to view how good (or bad) your favourite clothing brand is. Good On You is an Australian app (now launched overseas), that takes out the hard work for you by having a Brand Directory of rated brands by planet, people and animals. 

“We have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”  Emma Watson, Good On You Supporter

The Future

Large online retailers are now jumping on the bandwagon of curating ‘responsible’ fashion, allowing users to select ‘better’ brands. This is a remarkable step in the right direction and it’s commendable to the sites that have attempted it correctly.

These online retailers have enormous influence over consumers and therefore even attempting to add conscious collections can create change. There is however a huge hole in rating brand’s responsibility; rating algorithms are all different and the fashion industry is very complex. Large e-commerce sites need to commit to working with major brands to create change, rather than just putting brands into boxes. 

Below are some examples of large e-commerce sites that are integrating the ‘shop by values’ tool for consumers: including what, how and my opinion.

Asos considered edit

ASOS 

What? 

ASOS is a huge British online retailer, with over 850 brands and shipping to 196 countries aka it’s a fast-fashion machine. ASOS as a retailer has a mixed review rating on Good On You, with a fast-fashion model and lack of relevant environmental policies. 

How? 

Clothing > Shop by Edit > Responsible Edit 

The responsible edit is a curated section on the site allowing the consumer to pick through 2,660 styles (as of August), claiming to be environmentally conscious clothing – ‘It’s our call for sustainability, without compromising your unique style. All the feel-good vibes’. 

Opinion

I call bullshit on this one I’m afraid. Firstly, a responsible curation is great however it contradicts the ASOS model of cheap fast fashion. ASOS was even recently quizzed by lawmakers over its impacts on the environment. Secondly, the Responsible Edit section is not easily found on the site, which makes it just a nice PR piece. Lastly, I have no idea how the selected garments are ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’. For example, a lot of the clothing is made from synthetic materials such as polyester, plus there are trousers for $18.00 full price. Somehow I don’t think these were ethically produced…hmmmm…

net a porter sustain

NET-A-PORTER 

What? 

This luxury designer online retailer has been running since 2000 from London, with a cult following. Remember, luxury doesn’t equal ethical. 

How? 

Clothing > NET SUSTAIN

The NET SUSTAIN platform includes 8,592 styles (as of August), which are curated to meet at least one of five key attributes based on human, animal, environmental and best practices in fashion and beauty. The attributes cover Local, Craft & Community, Considered Materials, Considered Processes (workers’ ethics) and Reducing Waste. The platform has a lot of innovative designers in the industry, for example, the eco queen, Stella McCartney

Opinion

I’m a big fan of the NET SUSTAIN platform, it feels like a sincere addition to the NET-A-PORTER site. There is a whole section explaining how the platform works and the rating system, which is essential for the consumer to understand. There are also sections for each product that explain clearly why it’s part of the NET SUSTAIN collection. There are also clear labels. Obviously, the site is for luxury items which doesn’t cater to everyone, however, the fast-fashion model will never be sustainable. Invest in beautiful pieces that will last a lifetime. 

farfetch positively conscious

FARFETCH 

What? 

Farfetch is another luxury fashion retail platform, with over 700 brands and again, started in London but ships worldwide. 

How? 

Categories > Positively Farfetch > Positively Conscious 

FARFETCH has cleverly teamed up with ratings app Good On You to rate brands by environment, social and animal welfare. The collection has over 10,000+ products with eco brands from Stella McCartney to Reformation. The platform also includes Pre-Owned items! 

Opinion 

FARFETCH Positively Farfetch is a great platform that includes a very large selection, which is easy to find and includes pre-owned items! The collection also includes reasonably priced items that aren’t just a luxury designer AND includes ethical items for Men. There’s also a conscious edit, a curated collection of positive fashion. 

the iconic considered

The Iconic 

What?

Sydney-based online retailer The Iconic is the largest fashion retailer in Australia, set up in 2011. The site includes a selection of over 20,000 products, with a wide range of brands from luxury to high-street. 

How? 

Clothing > Considered Edit 

The Considered Edit for Women, Men, and Kids, was rolled out recently, consisting of products which have one or more sustainability credential covering humans, animals or the environment. The Considered Edit has to include one or more of the following: Sustainable Materials, Eco-Production, Fair Production, Animal-Friendly, Community Engagement. 

Opinion 

I love the Considered Edit on The Iconic, it’s accessible for the general public ie it doesn’t just cover luxury brands. It’s also very clear – each product also has a detailed stamp with ‘Considered Edit’ and why e.g. Sustainable Materials – made using organic cotton. The Iconic also has a sustainability team, showing its commitment to changing the way people shop for the better.

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.