Communicating product-specific impact data to consumers is no mean feat — even the biggest brands in the world struggle to get it right. This is because brands are attempting to condense and simplify incredibly complex information, and lots of it. In this blog post, which is an excerpt from our 2022 Traceability Playbook for Fashion Supply Chains, you'll learn about how to communicate specific impact data and why it's important to avoid the practice of "information dumping."
Communicating Product-Specific Impact Data
Before you communicate product impact data, you have to measure it. Across the fashion industry, the adoption of measurement tools is still relatively low, therefore reporting on specific product impact data is scarce.
According to the 2021 Fashion Transparency Index by Fashion Revolution, of the 250 brands reviewed:
- 3% of brands disclose the percentage of products that are designed to enable closed-loop or textile-to-textile recycling at end-of-life
- 62% of brands publish their carbon footprint for their own operations and facilities.
- 31% of brands publish annual water footprint in owned and operated facilities. This drops to 14% at the manufacturing/processing facility level and 5% at the raw material level.
- 10% of brands publish time-bound, measurable commitment to zero deforestation.
- 27% of brands disclose their approach to achieving living wages for supply chain workers. Only 6% publish annual progress towards paying living wages and 1% publish the number of workers being paid a living wage.
- 25% of brands publish measurable, time-bound targets for the reduction of textiles deriving from virgin fossil fuels and 18% of brands publish annual progress to achieve this.
“When communicating product impact with consumers, it’s important to ensure that your marketing efforts are authentic, transparent and relatable,” says Akhil Sivanandan, co-founder, co-CEO, and CCO of Green Story, a Dutch company that conducts Life Cycle Assessments and communicates product impact for brands like Esprit, ThredUp, and PANGAIA.
"When it comes to sustainability claims, brands not only must be able to respond to consumers’ doubts, but also be mindful of upcoming green legislations."
- Akhil Sivanandan Green Story
“Making fair and meaningful comparisons when communicating a product’s environmental performance is useful information for consumers,” says Sivanandan. “When communicating your product comparisons, be sure to make this fair and outline what exactly you are saying has a better impact, as well as providing data to support this, in order to avoid accusations of greenwashing.”
Green Story communicates product impact with equivalences (X product’s positive impact is equal to Xkms of driving emissions avoided) and actuals (X product’s positive impact is Xkgs of CO2e avoided), to connect with consumers in accessible but accurate terms.
Avoiding Information Dumping
Another barrier preventing consumers from understanding the green claims of a brand is the practice of information dumping. This can happen when brands don’t know what information is relevant and interesting to their consumers, so they share everything. “Some big brands communicate their human rights and environmental efforts in a way that is overwhelming, impenetrable, repetitive and difficult to find, making it virtually impossible for their customers and stakeholders to decipher information that is meaningful and actionable,” reported the 2021 FTI.
“Sometimes crucial pieces of data are hidden in annexes and footnotes of long technical reports or buried dozens of clicks away from the homepage of their website. At other times, there is so much information to read through...that it almost seems like a deliberate strategy to obscure and distract,” reads the report. Whether intentional or accidental, information dumping occurs when brands are unable to communicate in a clear, accessible manner that educates curious consumers, rather than confusing them.
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