This Open Source Technology demands transparency from the brands that you care about: Ask By Who

I recently spoke to Ilona Mooney, founder of the non-profit Ask By Who, which is a startup that uses technology to further transparency, human rights and decent working conditions in supply chains.

Ilona is based in Finland and the organization is run by a group of volunteers in Brazil, Finland and San Francisco. When Ilona and her team were working on the concept for Ask by Who, they talked to several brands to learn what they were doing to improve their supply chains.

While some brands seemed to care and try to do something about it…a lot of them didn’t feel that it was a top priority because consumers are not asking them these types of questions.

It is exciting times for fashion consumers – brands and organizations are working together to improve transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry. The movement is growing, but it is still a niche. This Open Source campaign puts the power in the consumer’s hands. What do we care about? Which brands need to be more transparent and fix their supply chains ASAP?

How it works:

1.       Visit Ask by Who beta website

2.       Choose a brand

3.       Write your first name and e-mail

4.       Hit the Nominate button

You can do this for more than one brand! Once a brand reaches 1,000 signatures, Ask by Who will contact the brand and advocate for changes.

Who should you nominate?

The list of brands is quite long, so where can we have the biggest impact? I did a little bit of research and here are my five picks for brands:

The 2017 Fashion Revolution Transparency Index “reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.”

Transparency matters because without it there is no accountability. In this year’s ranking, not a single brand out of the 100 studied ranked above 50.

So, who are the worst offenders? 32 out of 100 brands scored between 0-10% in the Transparency Index (listed in alphabetical order)

1.       Abercrombie & Fitch

2.       Aeropostale

3.       Amazon

4.       American Eagle

5.       Anthropologie

6.       Burlington

7.       Calzedonia

8.       Chanel

9.       Chico’s

10.   Claire’s Accessories

11.   Dillard’s

12.   Dior

13.   Ermenegildo Zegna

14.   Express

15.   Forever 21

16.   Giorgio Armani

17.   Heilan Home

18.   Lacoste

19.   LL Bean

20.   Matalan

21.   Mexx

22.   Michael Kors

23.   Miu Miu

24.   Monsoon

25.   Neiman Marcus

26.   Pernambucanas

27.   Prada

28.   Ralph Lauren

29.   Ross Stores

30.   s.Oliver

31.   Triumph

32.   Urban Outfitters

Anthropologie, Lacoste, Mexx, Prada and Ralph Lauren are on Ask by Who’s list.

While the transparency index provides us a ranking, I was curious to see if more research had been done by other organizations. Here is what I found:

Project Just has evaluated Ralph Lauren (last updated Apr 2016), and among its findings

The brand does not publicly disclose the countries in which its suppliers are located or the supplier names and addresses.
The brand does not publicly share any policy against the use of cotton sourced from Uzbekistan in its products.

Anthropologie is also featured in Project Just’s database and according to the last update on Nov 2015:

URBN (which is the owner of Anthropologie) discloses very little about its supply chain and its social and environmental impact.
The company does not share any goals regarding how it is working to improve environmental and social conditions in its supply chain.
URBN is not a part of any multi-stakeholder initiatives and does not publicly share information on its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
The company has been embroiled in a number of controversies regarding some of the offensive products it has sold.

I couldn’t find more information about the other three brands, but you are welcome to nominate them to be included in Project Just’s database!

Then, I went to my phone and used the Good on You App to see what information was available. Just as I expected, the brands were poorly ranked:

  • Prada – Avoid
  • Ralph Lauren – Not Good Enough
  • Mexx – not listed (but I nominated them!)
  • Lacoste – Not Good Enough
  • Anthropologie – Avoid

And in case you need more evidence as to why these brands should be more transparent, Rank a Brand has given them the worst ranking in their scale, which is the letter E:

Ilona and her team are incredibly passionate about using IT to change the world - will you join the movement? These brands are my 2 cents on who to nominate, but there are many more on the list that are not transparent - I encourage you to browse the list and do your own research on the brands that you like the most!