We often hear that brand transparency is the solution to fixing the fashion industry. The problem is practicing transparency doesn't mean you are actively improving your standards just like not being transparent doesn't necessarily mean you are hiding something. Here's why brand transparency alone, won't make the change we need to create a better fashion industry.
What transparency is
Transparency is being public about how and where your products were made. Transparency is not a set of standards by which you can measure a brand. Since there isn't one metric for sustainability, being transparent about your brand practices doesn't necessarily mean you are making a positive impact or that what you publish is vetted. It doesn't even mean you are sharing EVERYTHING. Transparency simply means that they're willing to show consumers some of what goes on behind the scenes.
How transparency can be misleading
Most brands are strategic with what they choose to share as they all navigate cancel culture. Furthermore, there are so many nuances to social and environmental compliance that you need to be an expert to actually digest the information brands openly share. For example, a few major brands like H&M and C&A publish their entire supply chain on their website, but most supplier websites are so terrible you aren't given any information on what standards they practice nor do most people have a working knowledge of which certifications to look for to understand those practices.
Why a brand may not be transparent
An unfortunate risk in fashion is being knocked off. Intellectual property is tricky to navigate, as one altered feature can lose any legal standing, and therefore usually isn't worth the legal battle to pursue action. Many brands look to the designs of their competition and unfortunately sometimes factories help in this process. As a result, historically, many brands have kept their suppliers secret so no one can steal their quality (secret sauce) or designs. It is also beneficial for factory capacity. If everyone begins sourcing with your factory, they may no longer have time or enough staff to prioritize you. So not being transparent doesn't automatically mean a brand has something to hide.
How can your brand show transparency
Start with a stance of improvement. Rather than trying to portray only a polished picture of your grandiose sustainability practices, take the learning path. This allows space for you to learn, hear from your customers, pivot when your attempts aren't producing fruit, and be more likely to avoid greenwashing. At the end of the day, fashion is a product based business, so you will never be 100% sustainable. When you begin with this understanding it takes the pressure off and allows you to discover ways to improve.
Transparency is a very broad term, and it isn't comprehensive, but as long as your brand is doing what you can to continually improve, you'll bring in the business and impact that you want. Step one is setting up a safe supply chain. Our platform gives you one place to find ethical factories and manage your sourcing! Join today to get started.