This App Makes Ethical, Sustainable Clothes Shopping Easier Than Ever

Good On You ranks more than 3,000 fashion brands.

shopping for clothes online

@VforVictoria via Twenty20

For anyone wanting to make more ethical and sustainable clothing choices, an app called Good On You should be the next thing you install on your phone. It is a highly useful tool for gauging a brand's level of commitment to environmental and ethical standards, as well as animal welfare, and it makes it easy to decide what to buy, without having to put in hours of one's own research.

Good On You was created in 2015 by a group of Australian sustainable fashion campaigners, business owners, and tech developers to support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal #12, which states, "Ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns." It has grown significantly over the past five years and now provides data on more than 3,000 brands.

It works by ranking fashion brands on a scale from 1 (avoid) to 5 (great), using publicly available data that's gathered from company websites, credible third-party reports, and external certification schemes, such as Fairtrade, Global Organic Textile Standard, Cradle to Cradle, and more. It does not use information that isn't public, even if a company provides it directly to Good On You, but rather encourages the company to publish that information in order to improve transparency, as this is something that customers have a right to know.

Good On You app
Good On You app. via Good On You (screenshot) 

Good On You penalizes brands that engage in human rights abuses and notifies shoppers of an item's provenance – namely, whether it comes from a place where there's a high incidence of forced labor. From the website:

"This includes Xinjiang, China, where the forced labor of the ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups is of grave concern, as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan where modern slavery in the cotton industry is also prevalent."

It gives a higher ranking to brands that have strong environmental standards and strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and chemical use. It discourages the use of exotic animal skins and furs, and assesses the regulations by which it sources items like down, fur, and leather. It also weighs a company's intentions and promises for change, and whether or not it's moving in the right direction. The process is thorough and in-depth, comprising over 500 data points across 100 sustainability issues for every brand. 

Rankings have been updated recently to include brands' responses to COVID-19, which has been devastating for many clothing suppliers and garment workers in developing countries. With sales greatly diminished, many brands cancelled orders and delayed payments, creating chaos within the industry:

"As a result many suppliers have struggled to keep their doors open, while others have used the pandemic as an excuse to fire workers and crack down on unions. Millions of workers in the supply chain have gone unpaid, lost their jobs, struggled to find work and not had any social safety net to fall back on."

In response, Good On You is now considering whether or not a brand has policies in place to protect workers in challenging times, or if it failed to do so in recent months.

Buying sustainable clothing is more important than ever, especially as we learn more about the negative impact of the fashion industry on the planet, from extensive pesticide use, water depletion, and unsafe chemical exposure, to post-wear landfill waste and microplastic pollution. But knowing how and where to start with buying more ethically can feel extremely daunting in such a saturated and rapidly-evolving market. Good On You can simplify that process.