Imagine if, the next time you were shopping, you could find Fashion Labels on every garment or pair of shoes or handbag that were as in-depth as the nutrition facts we see on our food packages.
What if when we looked at a product’s tag, it didn’t just say where it was made and which fibers it’s composed of, but shared if the makers of that garment or pair of sandals were making living wages and working in good conditions?
Or if you could see the carbon footprint and ecological impact of a pair of sneakers and how it stacked up compared to other sneakers on the shelf?
Well, today we are going to envision that future with Matt Stockamp, the Sustainability Lead at Nisolo.
Tune in to this episode of the Conscious Style Podcast below, or on your favorite podcast app
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Read the Transcript From This Interview:
You know, I never saw myself getting into the fashion industry, I come from a background in anthropology and international business. Fashion was never on my radar. And I really got passionate about it during college.
So I went to school in the Bay Area at Santa Clara University, and got plugged into a fellowship opportunity after my junior year that sent me to India for three months.
And so I was working with an organization that’s now called Elevate, at the time they were called Good World Solutions. And they’re basically utilizing mobile phone technology to ask factory workers directly, you know, what are your wages like, what are working conditions like in the factory where you work, so that brands could have a much better sense of just what those conditions were like for their factory workers.
So I got to spend three months there. And part of my research was also spending time with labor union leaders and learning about just the day in and day out realities of their work.
And I’ll never forget, I spent a day outside of Bangalore, India, and I met a 21-year-old woman, I was 21 years old at the time as well. And she told me just so matter of factly, that I would never be able to achieve the aspirations I have for myself because of the low wage that I received from this factory.
And she was working for fast fashion brands, and was very much receiving a wage that just didn’t meet her most basic needs. And that really moved my heart and got me interested in learning more about the issues of why is this the case?
So I got back to school and started to research what the fashion industry looked like.
And I immediately began to realize, you know, this is a massive industry. And I started to ask the question of why is a multi-trillion dollar industry holding 10s of millions of people, most of whom are young women around the world in poverty, and really began to realize that this was an issue of greed.
I saw a finding that anywhere between, it’s an additional 1 to 4% of the price of a garments actually provide a living wage for workers. And so the industry certainly has those resources to pay for that, and that doesn’t.
And so I started to look at brands that were doing things differently. And this was 2015. And I began to identify Nisolo, as a neat brand that was just doing things differently for the industry.
Nisolo’s vision has always been to convince the fashion industry to value our planet and the people who make the clothes and shoes we wear, just as much as the industry values, the dollars of end consumers. And at the time, they had an internship available in the factory that we own and operate down in Trujillo, Peru, where we make shoes and accessories.
There’s an internship available doing social impact measurement and programming. And so I was fortunate to get that internship and spend the first year of my career outside of college there in the factory, and then to since then kind of grow with the company as we’ve expanded to several factories in Mexico and really grown to have a significant social and environmental focus.
So I’m now the sustainability lead at Nisolo. I always tell people that pretty much my job is to figure out who is behind our products, you know, at each stage of the value chain, and what can we be doing as a brand to support them and their dependents and help them thrive in their day to day lives?
And then also, on the natural resources side of things what are the natural resources going into our products? And how can we be a responsible steward of the planet as well? And so that’s a yeah, just some quick background.
Yeah. And you started mentioning some of the sustainability criteria of Nisolo. But I would love to dive deeper into that, because in today’s conversation, we’re going to be talking a lot about Nisolo’s sustainability facts label. But before we do that, I think it would be really great to get some context on Nisolo’s approach to sustainability. So can you share a bit about that with us?
Definitely. Yeah. For us, sustainability has always been something that must be addressed in a really holistic manner. And so rather than just focusing on people or the planet, we believe in the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues and the importance of addressing them in tandem.
So last year, we really, for the first time, kind of built out our sustainability framework, which has five pillars that we operate within. And then in addition to each of those pillars, we’ve actually kind of set aside a minimum standard that we have as an expectation for ourselves and that an expectation that we also have other brands will adopt as well to move the industry forward.
And so these five pillars I’ll say I’m really quickly and then I’ll go deeper into each one they’re people, planet, transparency, accountability, and ecosystem building.
And so starting off with the first pillar of people, we want to be able to ensure that everyone in our supply chain has their needs met. And so as a bare minimum, we are actively pursuing 100% living wages that cover the basic needs of people within our supply chains.
The second pillar of planet, we’re focused on actively pursuing 0% net carbon emissions through the reduction and offsetting of all of our carbon emissions.
Thirdly, and transparency, we really believe that it’s all about progress over perfection, we want to be clear with all of our stakeholders, about our practices, we want to be able to share not only where we’re doing well, but really state where do we need to be improving.
And so today’s conversation is going to be really focused around that, as the sustainability facts label is kind of the most transparent thing we’ve ever done as a business really sharing how we’re performing across the board on people and planet. The minimum kind of bare standard that we’re holding ourselves to, and that we hope the industry will adopt as well is when it comes to transparency as tracking and publicly sharing those core metrics that are tied to how people on the planet are treated.
Fourthly, is accountability. Accountability is a huge one in the fashion industry, I know that this audience is really well versed in greenwashing and how much that has just really become a problem more recently, and so we’re seeking to elevate accountability by validating practices through reputable third party certifications.
And so we’ve been a certified B Corp since 2017, where most of our leathers are also Leather Working Group certified. And we’re a proud Climate Neutral Certified Brand, as well. And so we’re also calling on others and then when it’s unavailable, and third party certification is unavailable, we’re self-evaluating and publishing our progress as well.
And then the last pillar is ecosystem building. Nisolo is a Spanish word that actually means not alone. It’s a, it really communicates to us the importance of interdependence, recognizing that there are people behind everything that we wear and that everything we wear also connects us to the planet and the natural resources that are used for our clothing. And so we want to be advocating for a more equitable fashion industry by supporting changemakers and legislation as well, that protects and amplifies the rights of people on the planet. So that’s kind of the quick version of that framework.
Yeah. And I’d love to explore the sort of last pillar of that framework a bit more. So Nisolo’s approach to sustainability goes beyond the brand itself. And your most recent and perhaps largest project today in this realm is the Sustainability Facts label.
So can you tell us what exactly this label is all about? And what it aims to do what the goals are?
Definitely, yeah, and this label has been a joy to work on. It is by far the biggest thing we’ve ever done as a brand. And we’ve been developing it now for several years. And I think, I think it’ll be interesting and helpful to share even before, kind of what it is, and what it looks like to share a little bit of the context of, of kind of why we did this and why we feel like it’s important. So I want to paint a broad picture of kind of the why to kick us off.
So think about the phone in your hands right now, or the clothes that you’re wearing today. The car, you drive, if you drive a car, you know, from megabytes to miles per gallon, we know a lot about the products that we buy, and that we purchase kind of day to day, that almost nothing about the hundreds of hands that they touch, or the thousands of miles they travel before our products actually get to us.
And so we as consumers largely were very much in the dark, while at the same time our dollars or funding is broken industries around the world. And this lack of transparency, we see it causing several significant problems, especially in the fashion industry, as it relates to social and environmental impact. And so we all want sustainable to actually mean something that’s more comprehensive, and that has a concern and focus for both people and planet.
But we’ve seen the industry really move in a direction that is not nearly comprehensive enough. And so we recognize that without true transparency around social and environmental impact, the fashion industry can’t change. And this is because we know that without accountability, there’s no change.
And we also know that without transparency, there’s no accountability and so all that to say without a radical amount of unprecedented transparency fashion won’t be able to change. And this is why we realized we needed to make a label.
When we think about the nutrition facts label, we knew that it’s had a tremendous impact on transparency in the food and beverage industry, the fashion industry has been nowhere near to bringing anything like this to the market, whereas that nutrition facts label has been around since the early 90s.
And the attempts that have been launched kind of labels that have been launched frequently, quite frankly, the more that we saw, the more we saw that most were falling, short of ensuring the protection of people and the planet, a lot were only emphasizing one or two core areas of sustainability, where we feel there’s a much broader range that I’ll get into, that we feel needs to be addressed.
And so all that to say, we believe it’s time that the transparency we get for the food we put in our bodies exist for the clothes that we put on our bodies. And that’s really what this is all about. You know, the point isn’t perfection, we believe it’s about progress over perfection. This is about being honest as well. And it’s about unprecedented transparency with all of our stakeholders.
And so with that said, I want to just share what this is, you know, high level, high level, it’s a comprehensive product label that covers five categories across people, and then five categories across planet. And so for people, what the Sustainability Facts label is assessing, is wages and payment, health and safety, governance and workers’ rights, gender equality and empowerment, and health care and benefits.
Those are kind of the five most important areas when we look at what the industry is evaluating when we see who’s being impacted within our own supply chain, as a kind of the five core areas that we feel are most important to be addressing.
And then for the planet, this label is looking at a product’s carbon footprint. It’s looking at its raw material integrity and durability, processing and manufacturing, how is that product made, packaging and distribution, and then post-use product lifecycle.
And so I think one of the biggest problems with the fashion industry today is that there’s so many different certifications and a lot of broad sweeping claims oftentimes leave the end consumer pretty confused. I think that brands are confused. Manufacturers as well have been confused.
And one of the biggest things that’s been missing is just a simple place to look that comprehensively articulates these core social and environmental issues that need to be assessed from both people and planet perspective within supply chains.
And so that was what we were really trying to get across with this label, you’ll be able to see on our website and our packaging as well. This label exists on all Nisolo made products.
And so all of our product pages any footwear accessory item on the website that’s Nisolo branded has this in the lifestyle images. But you can also see it if you scroll down into the sustainability accordion as well. And you’ll see a great across all of those areas.
And then what really makes this unique, it doesn’t just have that breadth of the 10 categories, the five and people in the five and planet. But if you click to see further, it actually also has 200 individual data points where you’ll be able to see what does this product actually meet? And what does it not meet when it comes from a people and planet perspective.
There’s 92 data points in people and then 108 in planet. And so it’s one of the most transparent things that we’ve gotten to do. And we’re just trying to be really honest about, you know, what is this product doing? And what is it not doing? And we’re holding ourselves accountable in that to inviting our customers to keep us accountable to making improvements all the time.
Wow, yeah the Sustainability Facts Label really has both depth and breadth. And I’m really looking forward to getting more into the methodology behind the labeling system.
But first, I just wanted to ask you a few clarifying questions about the label to make sure we’re all on the same page.
So the first one is: is the Sustainability Facts label a certification? Like if other brands were to use this methodology, would there be a Nisolo seal of approval or certification or anything like that?
Yeah, great question. Quick answer is no, this is not — we don’t offer a seal of approval. This methodology is meant to empower consumers to make better choices, and to invite brands like us to strengthen our approaches to sustainability.
And so the intention is that any brand could run with this format and run with this methodology and apply it to their products and product line, we’re by no means a third-party certifier. So no to that.
Okay, thank you for clarifying that. And then the second question that I had — and you did mention this in the description but just to emphasize — at what level is the Sustainability Facts label assessing? Is it for the brand? Is it for a collection? Or is it for an individual product?
Yeah, totally. So the label is targeted towards individual products, while many certifications that assess a brand as a whole are important, like a B Corp, or Remake, and others that are in the industry, we felt it was really important to make this a product-specific label so that consumers can make those kinds of product based comparisons, as opposed to just brands as a whole.
Yeah and that is something very unique because I feel like we either have brand-level certifications, like B-Corp as you mentioned.
Or there’s a label or certification about the product, but it’s just like one attribute of the product. You know, maybe they use organic fabrics, or it’s produced in a fair trade facility, or it was tested against toxic chemicals.
But there isn’t really anything to my knowledge that’s assessing a product with that depth and breadth that we see in the brand-level labels.
And I feel like I’m sort of answering the next question that I have for you here, but I would love to hear in your view, what makes the Sustainability Facts label different from what else is on the market today? Because as we know, there are a lot of labels, standards, certifications, etc. already in the fashion industry today.
Definitely. Yeah. And I want to start answering that question by just kind of first thing in many ways, we wish we didn’t need to create another label, because we recognize that the industry is so saturated with labels and standards and assessments. Currently, there’s dozens of them on the market, if not hundreds at this point.
And so one of kind of the classic questions we’ve gotten throughout the process is even you know, why create another label to begin with? There’s really three reasons for that.
We felt like a lot of the, you know, while extremely necessary, these kinds of in-depth certifications that look at things specifically at the product level, while they’re certainly necessary, we felt like a lot are not necessarily holistic or comprehensive enough. And so that was one reason why we put this out.
Another major reason is that a lot of standards and certifications that are moving in the direction of more holistic reporting and labeling aren’t in front of consumers yet. We’ve always been passionate about giving consumers power in this space in supporting them in their journey towards just being more ethical and what they wear and what they consume as well. And so we wanted to get something that was consumer-facing.
And then kind of the last, the last kind of major gap that we saw, as we looked at and research various labels and standards was that not it just simply aren’t that digestible? I think a lot of consumers tend to get lost, it’s hard to know what a certain badge means, or, you know, what a certain aspect of a certification means. And so, for us, what really different differentiates the label from others that are on the market right now are, the primary thing is really, to me, it’s digestibility.
You know, a customer can look at this label and quickly understand, these are the 10 core things that I need to be considering when I purchase a, you know, a garment or a piece of apparel. And so it’s that matter of digestibility.
And then the two other things, the next one being breadth, this looking at those 10 core issues, whereas a lot of other labels are only covering one or two.
And then the next one being depth as well. We actually have a QR code on the back of every label on our physical products. And so a customer when they receive a pair of Nisolo’s can scan that QR code and then see exactly what that product qualifies for and doesn’t qualify for.
So the score you see on the front or on the product page, it’s not just a randomized score, a customer can quickly scan that and see you know how we arrived at a 92% for example, for wages and payment.
Yeah, thank you for that in-depth explanation that’s really useful. And I’m excited to maybe get to test that out one day.
So the Sustainability Facts label, in case anybody hasn’t seen it, follows the format of the Nutrition Facts label that we see on food products in the US. And yeah, I’m realizing people outside of the US might not see that, have seen that label, so I’ll put a picture in the show notes of like what a Nutrition Facts label looks like in the US and then what Nisolo’s Sustainability Facts label looks like. But the formats are very similar.
So I would love to know what the parallels are with Nisolo’s Sustainability Facts label for the fashion industry, with the Nutrition Facts label for the food industry?
Yeah, great question. We really wanted a design that already made sense for the mainstream consumer. You know, there’s a reason we made it.
So similar to the Nutrition Facts label, and we really did it because the major parallel and when you think about food is that Nutrition Facts label when you see it on, on food, it gives you the information, you need to make an educated decisions actually purchase that product, or to leave it where it is.
And we felt like it’s been, and it’s been a really impactful tool. The nutrition label came out in the early 90s. And, you know, even though the food and beverage industry certainly still have their problems, I would make the argument that we’ve seen a lot more progress in that industry than we have in the fashion industry.
We’re seeing, you know, just the exponential growth of regenerative organic food, small-scale farming, and just a lot of progress that I think has largely come from consumers being a little bit more aware of the impacts of what they’re putting into their bodies.
And so we know that fashion has a huge impact. And we want to provide consumers with the information they need to make those kinds of educated decisions. And so we felt like the nutrition label was the most sensible kind of format and designed to go about that.
And then the other reason as well is because it’s meant to be standardized and used across different brands. And so currently, we’re the only brand using it. I’ll get into a little bit later the interest that we’ve had from other brands, and some of our kind of medium and long-term intentions and next steps.
But the hope is that other brands will adopt this, you know, that’s why we didn’t put our unique branding or fonts or colors to this label. It’s a simple black and white label, because our intention is for its broad adoption across the industry.
Yeah, absolutely, and that makes a lot of sense.
So I think that when evaluating any label or certification, it’s really important to have an understanding of the methodology behind it. So can you tell us a bit about the body of research and the assessments and any other considerations that went into developing the scoring methodology for the Sustainability Facts Label?
Definitely. And I always love to geek out on methodology. We’ve been deep in the weeds on that stuff for several years now.
So realizing how critical this kind of methodology was needed in the industry, and that it didn’t exist, when we really started to dig in, we knew that we had to help bring it to life. We knew we weren’t experts in everything sustainability, even though we’ve been in the fashion industry for 10 plus years now as a brand, and had a lot of experience across our team as well.
And I think just with that humility of almost kind of coming from the outside being individuals that hadn’t created our own standard or certification, I think it actually set us up really well to do in-depth research of the assessments that were out there and really get a good sense of what is most important in creating a comprehensive assessment.
And so we spent the last four years analyzing over 30 of the top assessments, certifications, and organizations and labels as well, to build our holistic methodology. And I want to share for the sustainability geeks out there, I’ll share a little bit of you know, the specific ones that went into each when it comes to people and planet.
And so at the heart of our 92 people criteria, we assess our components from Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, Social Accountability International’s SA8000 Standard, we looked at the Fair Labor Association’s Workplace Code of Conduct, and compliance benchmarks. The Better Work Program as well, we looked at the ILO standards and International Finance Corporation. We looked at Fair Trade USA as well. We dug deep into B Lab’s B Impact Assessment.
And then we also looked at living wage methodologies and standards from both the global living wage, the Global Living Wage Coalition, and then wage indicator and trading economics as well. And so that was on the people side, a lot of those similar names come up on the planet side as well.
We also on planet, we also dug deep into textile exchanges, various standards, Cradle to Cradle product standards, Climate Neutral economies 2030 calculator, we looked at EON’s digital ID as well, Leather Working Group and other raw material standards also. And then Regenerative Organic standards, Bluesign, Oeko-Tex, REACH. A lot of these kinds of major standards and assessments that look at environmental impact.
And so, as we started to research both in people and planet, what are all of these organizations looking at, we saw a ton of common threads, which we expected to see, as well. Everyone is looking at a core issue like child labor or working hours, or overtime hours, and things like that.
And so we took those similarities and then built out a progressive methodology that goes from zero to 100, for product zero being a non-negotiable. A product, for example, would score a zero in governance and workers’ rights if there was child labor in that supply chain. But then it’s built up progressively in line with those standards and certifications so that something in the 90 to 100 range would indicate best practices that are really moving the industry forward.
And so even though yes, we certainly did build our methodology, kind of placing those criteria where we felt most appropriate. All of those criteria are actually informed by industry experts and third-party certifications, and organizations that are really well versed in this stuff.
None of it was just kind of blindly made up by Nisolo. And so that’s kind of we really felt like coming from the outside. Hopefully, we were able to attain the details and the rigor that come from these third-party organizations.
Yeah. And can you tell us how the Lowest Wage Challenge fits in with the Sustainability Facts label and maybe provide a little bit of background on what the Lowest Wage Challenge is for listeners that aren’t familiar with that?
Yeah, so the Lowest Wage Challenge was pre-pandemic. And it was something that we launched in 2019. Alongside ABLE, Nisolo is a brand based in Nashville, Tennessee, and ABLE is a friend and neighbor brand as well.
Also, in Nashville, we launched the Lowest Wage Challenge as a means to inspire a living wage movement in fashion. We knew that less than 5% of factory workers were making a living wage, and we’d seen brand after brand make excuse after excuse for, you know why providing a living wage wasn’t possible.
And so we came together and thought about what would be a really engaging, provocative metric to publicly share to actually spark a living wage movement in the fashion industry. And there’s truly no wage, that’s more telling than, than the lowest wage really, for a lot of reasons.
The lowest wage indicates what the person on the lowest hole on the ladder is making at a particular factory. And the reason why lowest wage is so important for us to be measuring is because if we can ensure that the lowest wage is a living wage, then we can be certain that everyone in that facility is receiving a wage that’s sufficient to meet their most basic needs.
And so we partnered with ABLE and published our lowest wages very transparently, got a lot of positive feedback. Got a lot of criticism as well, you know, those hard questions of how can you be paying this in Peru or in Mexico? How is this a living wage?
And we had really rich conversation and dialogue with all of our stakeholders as to why this conversation was needed and how we were providing living wages for all of our factory workers. And we really believe in the importance of the transparency of that wage.
And so in terms of how it fits into the Sustainability Facts Label, you’ll see and as one of the criteria under wages and payment in the People section on the label, if you go into it 200 data points that a product will receive a higher rating if the brand is being transparent about sharing the lowest wage, where that product is being manufactured.
And so I think that also communicates just how broad this label is, you know, the lowest wage challenge and publishing our lowest wages was a major initiative and it’s really just, you know, one metric of 200 in this kind of greater label. So that’s how it fits in.
Okay, yeah, thank you for providing that context. I know it’s outside of the scope of this conversation because we only have so much time, but I’m very anxious to see the progress of the lowest wage challenge continue.
But back to the Sustainability Facts label, any rating certification or assessment is going to be inherently biased, because it is created by an organization of people with a certain background, and Nisolo addresses this on the methodology page on your website saying that, “in many ways, we wish we were not a brand behind this label, because of the biased perception of this tool when made by a brand.”
So my question here is, how did Nisolo try to balance out this bias when determining the methodology? And then how will you integrate feedback in the future for this label to make it as holistic as possible and considering as many perspectives as possible?
Yeah, it’s a great question. And honestly, it was front of mind the entire time that we were making the methodology. You know, how do we not get too close to this? How do we make sure that it is relevant for the entire industry, and actually, as unbiased as possible, as well.
And so how like I responded in the previous in one of the previous questions, we tried to avoid a lot of bias by leaning as much as we could into third party assessments and standards that had already been built in factoring in the things that they do. And so it’s not just highlighting Nisolo specific activities.
And I hope we also tried to communicate that well, as we rate ourselves in several areas across the board receiving a C minus, and a lot of our processing and manufacturing scores, recognizing that we have significant areas for improvement. And so, you know, we knew as we built this, it was going to be impossible for us to get 95s and A’s across the board, because we’re simply not there yet.
We sort of built it out in a way that if there was a perfect product, what would I want 100% look like across the board? And then we’re able to kind of identify gaps between where we are now versus where we want to be. And we’re certainly proud of the progress and achievements we’ve made to date, but we know that we have a lot more work to do. And so that’s one of the ways we eliminated bias.
And then we also worked on it in collaboration. And so it wasn’t just a, I led a lot of the methodology building that was really beautiful about this project is that our CEO invested hundreds of his own hours and time, really getting a sense as well of what the different standards are, and how we’re performing across the board too. And so we had various team members jumping in and contributing feedback, and that created a lot of improvements.
And now that it’s out there in the public, I’m really excited, because now I think is kind of the next chapter in season, where we get to make a lot of improvements, you know, now we get to pitch this and show this to legitimate industry experts, scientists and whatnot, and actually get their feedback on making improvements to this. And we have started to get that, that feedback, some good constructive criticism from others in the industry.
And one of the kind of reasons that we built the methodology in the way that we did, where it’s kind of a, if you’ve looked through it, it kind of goes up by categories of 10. And so a product might fall into 50 to 60 or will fit into 60 to 70. We kind of built it in that progressive stage, instead of doing a specific algorithm that gives you a specific score in each because we knew that there would likely be some gaps as industry experts started to give feedback.
And so, we are definitely in the process, you know, right now of implementing some of that feedback and making improvements to the existing label and structuring the method in that way, and it gave us the flexibility to get constructive criticism, and continue to build this out.
Because ultimately, we want to see, a really, even though it’s thorough and is really broad and deep already, there’s always improvements you can make similar to how, if you look at different iterations of the nutrition facts label, it’s pretty amazing how far it’s come since 1992. So expect to see a lot of changes as well as this grows and becomes more of a transparent movement.
Yeah, absolutely. One parallel that comes to mind with the Nutrition Facts Label is that I hope to eventually be able to see on a garment or a piece of footwear, whatever it is, not just the fabric or material composition, but also the dyes used in any finishes.
Because we know that a lot of the ones used in the industry are quite toxic. So that would be really interesting to see.
And then a follow up question I had for you on this is, are you getting any feedback from like worker groups, activist organizations, or worker unions or anything like that, on the people side of things in the Sustainability Facts Label?
Yeah, that’s such a good question, as well. And in an area where we’re always seeking to get workers feedback. I’ve been in direct communication with the Garment Workers Center here in LA, and the company is based out of Nashville that I’m based out of Ventura. And so that’s an organization that I’ve started to ask them for feedback on.
And then what’s really unique about Nisolo is that we are still vertically integrated. And so we do own and operate that factory still in Trujillo, Peru, that makes a significant share of our products. And so yeah, our I wouldn’t say our garment workers directly shared with us that these are the metrics that they want to share.
But as we worked with them, as we’ve worked with them for more than a decade now, because of that direct experience with our factory workers, we’re able to get a stronger sense of what needs to be included on this label. And where can we be going above and beyond, especially in the scores of in categories of gender equality, and empowerment and health care and benefits as well.
But it’s such a good suggestion. We’re in a really creative headspace now, where as we look at future iterations and improvements, that’s definitely a voice that we want to be central to informing any improvements that we make.
We don’t want to just want to be in our own, you know, ethical fashion ivory tower. We’re very much engaged with factory workers on the ground and want them to be informing all of our practices and what we do.
So we started talking about the future of the Sustainability Facts Label and the progress. And so I’d love to hear from you, you know, what are the goals for the next few years? What do you see in this sort of mid-term future for the label?
I see it in sort of three phases. The first two phases would be more of the short and medium term. And then the third one being kind of longer.
So phase one, which has been accomplished was really just getting creating this getting the methodology completed, rating our products that six took us several years, creating this, and getting it out into the world.
And so now we’re very much in phase two, which is supporting brands with implementing it and making collective improvements to it as well. So we designed like I mentioned earlier, this label and methodology to be free of charge and simple to take and run with. It’s already receiving strong interest, the New York Times, Vogue, Forbes, and Entrepreneur have covered it.
And we have had several brands that have been on calls with me that have been interested in implementing it using it to, you know, do one of two things. And oftentimes, both as we continue to grow to a lot are using it already to inform their sustainability vision and theirs, especially as they think about at the product level. And so they’re already using it internally to think through, how can we be performing better in, for example, the category of raw materials integrity, and durability.
And then we do have a handful of brands also that are just wanting more support to get to a place where they can actually publish this label as well on their products. And so then more of a, it’s gotten, certainly gotten a lot more attention and similar to the Lowest Wage Challenge from your ethical fashion community and sustainable fashion community.
I hope that as more and more brands start to publish this that customers will get more and more acquainted with just expecting this level of transparency from brands. We hope that this is the floor for transparency for a future label for the industry.
And so that kind of leads me to phase three, where eventually I would love to see and speaking for the company, Nisolo, would love to see an industry-wide adopted label that is regulated by an independent organization for actually scoring these products similar to how the Food and Drug Administration manages the nutrition facts label. We would love to see a day where this is standard practice.
And it’s an interesting conversation to think about, you know, how can we ever get a really large, fast fashion brand to share in this level of detail what they’re doing, when it comes to people and the planet?
We maybe they would do it if they had enough demand behind it from consumers. But another thing that I think is really starting to hit the industry is seeing the positive impact of legislation, as we look at SB62, in California, and as the New York Fashion Act is very much in progress. It’ll be interesting to see and maybe there’s a day where there’s legislation acquiring this kind of labeling. That would certainly be exciting.
Yeah, yeah for sure. That would be really exciting if we saw that level of transparency — and then also hopefully the accountability alongside it — across the entire fashion industry. That would really be incredible.
As you mentioned, we are seeing some promising progress and so we can continue to advocate and accelerate that progress. And I really appreciate all of the work that Nisolo is doing in pushing the industry forward.
So, if listeners want to learn more about the Sustainability Facts label, where can they go?
Yeah, check it out on nisolo.com. If you go to the About drop down on our homepage, you’ll see a really big icon taking you to the Sustainability Facts Label landing page. That’s the best place that really explains the why and the what.
And then on that same page, you’ll get a link, if you really want to geek out and read the 32-page methodology. You can go all the way through the ins and outs of how this was built and what informed it so I encourage you to check out both.
Perfect, yeah. And we will make sure those links are in the show notes for everyone to check out easily as well.
Matt, thank you so much for your time today and sharing all about Nisolo’s Sustainability Facts Label with us. It’s really exciting.
Before we end our conversation today, I do have one final question for you that I ask every guest that comes onto the podcast. And that is: what would a better future for fashion look like to you?
Yeah, well I have a really long answer, because I’ve given it a lot of thought over a long time. And it’s something that I’m just really passionate about. And so I’ve kind of broken it into five different parts. But I’ll start with people.
My hope and dream is that all of the people behind the clothes we wear are cared for. I want to see them given what they need to thrive. I think to me that looks like workers are receiving a living wage, are working in a safe and healthy work environment where their rights are honored and elevated. And they’re also provided with health care and generous benefits that extend to their family members so that their whole family can thrive.
Instead of holding young women and their dependents in poverty, I see our industry as a means of empowering women and helping them not only work in the fashion industry, but letting the fashion industry be a launching pad for them to work in careers that they are really aspiring to as well.
On the planet side of things I see us and hope that we’ll be embracing a circular system where we only manufacture and make products within our planetary limits and what we can work with. Instead of extracting resources, I believe that fashion can be a means of regenerating the planet as well. And I think we’re already seeing that through really exciting and amazing regenerative practices.
For brands specifically, I hope that we take accountability for impacts and utilize our influence as a means to eradicate poverty and combat climate change.
And I hope we inspire other industries to do the same as well. And fashion is a huge industry and it’s one of many large industries and I think that if we could do this right, if we could rewrite the system, maybe the oil industry and maybe other major offenders would take note as well and do the same.
And then for consumers, I see us throwing out the term consumer, I see us operating as people. I see us really moving towards a place of where we’re looked at as, you know, citizens and activists driving change, not only people who are purchasing products.
And so we’re really clear about this at Nisolo also about, we believe in buying less and buying better when we need to buy so I see us becoming more responsible as people who are purchasing products. And I also see us as through this label and through future labels as well being provided with information that we need in order to buy less and to buy better as well.
And lastly, just speaking to the human family more generally, you know, all of us I believe that our flourishing is dependent on the well being of everybody in our natural environment as well. I see us all and hope for a day where we truly recognize our interdependence and use the time that we have to celebrate and uplift one another and the planet that we live in as well.
And that’s a wrap for this episode with Matt of Nisolo. As mentioned, all of the relevant links and the full transcript are in the show notes on www.consciouslifeandstyle.com
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Alright, thank you so much for tuning in to this week’s show. I hope to see you for another episode of the Conscious Style Podcast next Tuesday.
Matt’s passion for leveraging the fashion industry to eradicate poverty and combat climate change grew out of firsthand experiences working in garment factories across India through Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship where he heard the stories of dozens of women who could not meet their families’ basic needs making clothes for major apparel brands.
Since joining the Nisolo team in 2015, Matt has worked on the ground in the factory they own and operate in Peru and alongside partner factories across the supply chain to ensure 100% living wages. He led the brand to B Corp Certification in 2017 and, more recently, Climate Neutral Certification in 2020.
Matt serves as a Remake Ambassador and member of Climate Neutral’s Brand Advisory Group with a strong conviction that collaboration is needed to shift the industry in a more sustainable direction.