Project Just -the stories behind your clothes

If you’ve ever wondered what the story behind your favourite brand is, and where their material comes from, there’s a new website to help with just that.

I found out about Project Just through The Root Collective, a company which sells handmade Guatemalan shoes.

 

Let’s take one of my favourite brands for home decor and interiors – Anthropologie. The pros are that some of Anthropologie’s collections have a socially or environmentally positive impact. The cons:

URBN 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.

Project Just begins with a summary of who owns the company, and there are different sections targetting:

  • the pros and cons of each brand
  • size and business model
  • transparency
  • labour conditions
  • environment
  • intention
  • community
  • management
  • innovation

You can also download a data sheet with research done on each brand, shared via Google Docs.

A separate ‘Voices’ section shares testimonials by industry experts, journalists and advocates for ethical consumption. Anthropologie has been reviewed by the Huffington Post, Ecouterre and change.org.

There’s also the option for the company to comment on its ethical standards, though Anthropologie hasn’t said anything yet.

Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s a video describing how the site works:

It’s not a comprehensive list of brands by any stretch, but it’s a great start.

There’s also the option to request a brand you use often, for Project Just to research and add to their website.

What do we look for?

 

First and foremost, we are really interested to learn what a brand is doing to ‘do no harm’ as part of their business operations; how they are taking care of the people and the environment in their supply chain, how they are innovating in those regards, their knowledge of their own supply chain, and how transparent they are with their information. Secondly, we are interested to learn how they do more good; community and CSR efforts, and multi-stakeholder initiatives.

 

Therefore, we look for publicly available self-reported and third-party reported information for these main categories:

/ Size and Business Model: this category focuses on the size of the business and its operations; how many employees, their annual revenue, the type of business model, etc.

/ Transparency: this category focuses on how open a brand is about communicating about their supply chain, and its social and environmental impact.

/ Labor conditions: this category focuses on understanding how a brand is treating the people in their supply chain.

/ Environment: this category focuses on understanding how a brand is treating the environment.

/ Innovation: this category focuses on highlighting any innovative efforts by the brand to go above and beyond the status quo in any aspect of their operations and supply chain.

/ Intention: this category focuses on highlighting goals and commitments made by the brand to improve the social and environmental aspects of their supply chain.

/ Management: this category highlights the main leadership of the brand, the CEO, their salary and any reported issues or scandals.

/ Community: this category highlights the brand’s community and CSR efforts, as well as multi stakeholder initiatives.

 

We believe these main categories can really help inform the user about the brand’s ethics and sustainability. We divided these categories into detailed questions to help us get a comprehensive picture. You can access the full list here.

 

How do we do the research?

 

First, we dig really deep into their self-reported data: sustainability reports, website, as well as 10-Ks.

 

Second, we relentlessly scour every corner of the web, searching for third-party reported information. We look for investigative reporting on VICE, Ecouterre, The Guardian, Sourcing Journal, Business of Fashion, among others. We also look at industry reports such as Australian Fashion Report, Not for Sale, Labour Behind the Label, and Good Guide.

 

Third, from both the self-reported and third-party reported info, we try to answer our list of questions and we include all of our sources next to the information gathered. The list is meant to help us get a comprehensive picture of what’s available about the brand. Having said that, we are sensitive to the nuances of the industry and understand that some questions might not apply to all brands.

 

Finally, all of that research gets summarized with sources into a research summary document. We highlight some of the facts from that document on the brand page, and make all the remaining information available when you download the data.

 

Who does this work?

 

A team of awesome people, with backgrounds in fashion, business, history, and international development, who all share a huge passion for changing the status quo.

 

For each brand we assign two researchers; one assigned to self-reported information, the other to third-party reported information. Once each is done with their research, they switch roles and verify the research of the other person. All the information is verified one last time by a third person before creating the research notes document.

 

How frequently do we update the information?

 

We set up google alerts for all the brands we publish, so whenever new relevant data emerges we update the page.

 

We will also update the page once we receive additional or new information from the brand themselves.

 

Finally, and most importantly, we update the page in response to contributions from our community. We are humbled by the fact that we don’t have access to all information, and we really want this to be a crowd sourced and owned tool. So we are counting on you to contribute and comment, and we will update the page with those contributions.

With more and more information known and shared about where our products come from and more interest in tracing the supply chain, the room for a website like this to grow and gain interest is huge. I hope it grows and adds more brands from across the globe – it’ll be interesting to see what’s shared!

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