Fashion brands’ sustainability performance has lacked independent verification and true transparency. European non-profit MADE-BY is hoping their ‘ground-breaking’ new tool, called MODE Tracker, will change that. After a rigorous year-long verification process, the pilot program results from G-Star, Ted Baker, Vivobarefoot and Haikure were published on Wednesday.
MODE Tracker has a consumer-friendly interface that summarizes sustainability progress clearly through visual scorecards, in addition to providing more in-depth information on eight aspects of the product lifecycle. The companies are evaluated based on their level of “engagement” in each of the eight topic areas: product, manufacturing, people, product waste, own operations, packaging and transport, transparency, and use and durability. Companies that want to use MODE Tracker must report on people, product and at least one other area.
“MODE Tracker takes all of our data, verifies it and provides us with a simple clear overview of our progress, allowing us to credibly communicate both internally and externally,” said G-Star’s Corporate Responsibility Director, Frouke Bruinsma.
Each area is assessed based on three levels: level 1 indicates that they have set an ambition or have begun to build a foundation; level 2 indicates they are making steady progress; and level 3 indicates they have adopted best practices. The levels are displayed using a ‘traffic light’ color code system. For areas which companies have not communicated any activity, the area is left shaded grey and marked “no communication,” while exceptional leadership is indicated with a flag icon for “Pioneer” level activity.
“The traffic light visuals give a high level overview of our successes and areas of focus helping guide where we invest our time and resources,” said Kate Wakeling, Ted’s Conscience Manager at Ted Baker.
MADE-BY claims that MODE Tracker is the broadest and deepest monitoring framework in the fashion industry. Allanna McAspurn, the CEO of MADE-BY, explained, “In addition to the scorecard of results, companies also receive detailed reports on each topic, showing where their gaps are and what they need to do to be in line with industry best practice. This truly holistic approach, means that MODE Tracker is unquestionably the most advanced tool of its type in the industry.”
Companies are assessed yearly to provide a ‘progress roadmap’ tool that can demonstrate year-over-year improvements. Next year, at least five more brands are expected to publish their results alongside the four pilot brands, including Chasin’, Imps & Elfs, Just Brands, Nomad, and WE Fashion. MADE-BY is accepting inquiries from other fashion brands to start using MODE Tracker, as well.
“The very fact that companies are now reporting their results in this way—independently verified, transparently and publicly — is the biggest proof of how much attitudes are shifting,” McAspurn said. “It would not have happened even five years ago. Of course, the results will be mixed. But it is to the companies’ credit that they are taking this route and willing to be publicly visible.”
The concept behind MODE Tracker was first introduced in 2014 following consultation with 50 independent sustainability and fashion experts. MADE-BY’s previous scorecard system only looked at two areas. MADE-BY asserts that the MODE Tracker is not a ranking scheme for comparing brands nor a detailed reporting tool for product performance or separate industry standard. It is intended to be complementary to other sustainability indices such as GRI while offering third-party evidence based verification, breadth and depth, simple visuals and short summaries, the inclusion of consumers among its target audiences and a holistic approach.
“After 15 years in the industry I am pleased about the progress the leaders have made during this time and the fact that sustainability has continued to stay on the agenda despite various economic and resource issues. However, I am surprised to see how many medium sized fashion companies still lag behind, still appearing to have a short term view that is only focused on basic compliance,” McAspurn added. MADE-BY has been active since 2004.
Looking forward, she believes, “The industry is changing. The role of leadership in the industry is going to be even more important and, within the brands and retailers, the need to be much more holistic and transparent.”