During the fashion revolution week of 2021, we, at thegreenlabels, launched our new sustainability framework.
Our founder, Claudia Angeli, sat down with Sara Dubbeldam (@when_sara_smiles) to bring to light the intention behind her decision to revamp thegreenlabels' sustainability framework, the process of redeveloping it, and what she hopes to achieve with the launch of a new version of the framework.
How did you come up with the idea of setting up the the framework? And which problem(s) are you aiming to solve with it?
When I launched thegreenlabels in 2018, I consulted a sustainable fashion consultant from Berlin who helped me frame my ideas about sustainability around 4 values: vegan, clean process, waste reduction, local. With a prerequisite being ethics of production. Almost 3 years down the line, thegreenlabels has grown a bit to 40+ labels including many more categories such as beauty, accessories, footwear etc. 😉
I slowly came to realise that the initial framework that was used to assess sustainable information from labels and communicate to our customers was just not good enough anymore. We were struggling with the values as they were too “large” or too “vague” and also not per se always well understood by the end consumers (we did surveys asking about our current framework).
I also have noticed a trend around sustainability in fashion and beauty where we can see more and more labels surfing on the “sustainable” wave. I observe a combination of “greenwashing” attempts from bigger labels but also a vagueness around the term “sustainability”. At some point for me it didn’t feel good to use claims such as “sustainable” or “green” in our marketing–where I am aware we still need to do sometimes to keep our message short and concise,–without backing up those claims and clearly explaining what we mean by such a word for example such as “ethically produced” or “sustainable fabric”.
For that reason last year, we decided to revamp our framework by adding layers to it and expanding it to make it a place where people can learn, and a reference for us when we talk about sustainability.
Our values in the old and new framework
Who is it designed for? How would you describe their current level of knowledge about sustainability? And what do they need to make a good decision?
It is designed for anyone from beginners to more advanced/knowledgeable readers. We made it easy and accessible to access multiple layers of information from simple to more in depth. And we are also writing more blogs nowadays about topics around sustainability and want to share our knowledge and make it more accessible and help educate readers. This is as important for me, in terms of business objectives, as selling products.
Developing a complete framework like this sounds very complex and challenging. What challenges did you experience during the process? And how much time did it take to develop?
We started working on it in September in 2020. With a team of 3 members, we first assessed the old framework (4 values curation) and asked our readers and website users if they knew about the framework and gathered important insights. Through this, we learned the fact that “ethical production” and “fair wages” are actually the most important criteria for our readers. For us, these were “prerequisites” that were not clearly set up on every product which ended up not being clear to the customer.
After running the survey, we also checked our new categories and labels, any additional criteria we were missing, and the “vagueness” of any of our existing values (such as “local”). We then broke it down into 3 different values to achieve a more precise, clear and close to the truth communication. Further than that, my team came up with some brilliant ideas such as the glossary which is a little dictionary of terms that within sustainable fashion and beauty, and the different certifications.
Which parts of the framework are most important to your as a person and why?
The company's principles and the transparency pages are very close to my heart as they define not only what our labels but also what we stand for as a business. It goes broader than the labels we curate by instead focusing on how we operate as a company. The transparency section is the most educational that not only breaks down pricing but also the supply chain, and shows without hiding that there is not such a thing as 100% sustainability within the fashion or beauty industry.
On which criteria do you select labels? When are labels allowed to join thegreenlabels.com?
First of all, we define ourselves as rather inclusive than exclusive. So we want to encourage rather than discourage by being too strict or exclusive. I believe there are many aspects to sustainability as defined in the framework and most of the labels are tackling some aspects but not all. We aim to include all efforts in the right direction.
Second of all, regarding certifications; they are not the holy grail and are not needed to be part of thegreenlabels. For example, for organic fabrics, we can look at GOTS certification or the percentage of organic fibres and OCS 100 certification but also the composition of the garment directly. Working closely with small labels and their founders allow us to develop & build trust and a relationship we can rely on when it comes to knowing what a labels' true intention is.
Finally, we like to monitor and track the evolution of our labels. This means that a label can make a shy start which is followed by a steep improvement working on fabrics selection. Showing clear signs of improvement is also an important criteria for decision.
One other thing that is not linked to sustainability is regarding the style. TGL is not aiming to become the "Amazon" of sustainable fashion. We like to stay curated and cultivate a certain style or definition of aesthetics which plays a major role in defining which label joins the platform.
Will the framework be linked to information about the labels that can be found on thegreenlabels.com?
This is actually a very good question! On each label page, see example for TACH one of our newest label, you can already find the “values” that the label carries. We will also add some extra information there.
Most importantly, a second stage of the new framework project is on its ways which consists of tracking labels based on KPIs that correspond to each value and making that available for customers to be able to download. The idea is not only for us to keep track of the evolution of our labels' sustainability efforts, but also to make it transparent and available to the end customer so that there are solid facts to base our communication on but also honesty as we believe no one/label is perfect and there is always progress to be made.
What is your biggest dream for thegreenlabels.com?
I would love for us to become obsolete! Then it would really mean that we have done the work and that all fashion is made ethically and sustainably. But that is still a long way in front of us…
I would love to see thegreenlabels present in a few big cities in the EU and become a reference when it comes to sustainability & style curation!
Check out the different pages of the Framework ...
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