How much of a brand’s marketing can you trust? Are brands acting responsibly, and who is holding them accountable? Sandra Capponi founded Good on You to answer just these questions, empowering consumers to make informed purchase decisions.
Brian: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian.
Phillip: [00:00:05] I'm Phillip. And today we have a guest who I believe one day will need absolutely no introduction because the work that they are doing at Good On You is transformative and important. And I'm so excited to have the co-founder of Good On You on the show, Sandra Capponi. Welcome to Future Commerce.
Brian: [00:00:23] Welcome.
Sandra: [00:00:24] Hi, Brian and Phillip. Thank you for that introduction. That warms my heart. It's really great to be talking to you both.
Phillip: [00:00:30] Thank you.
Brian: [00:00:31] You as well.
Phillip: [00:00:32] Thank you for making time. We've sort of been, whether you knew it or not, we've been talking about Good On You in some form since the summer of last year. I think we discovered you in July or August of 2019. But for those who are newcomers to the show or those who are not familiar with your mission, what is Good On You and what is your purpose and what do you do?
Sandra: [00:00:57] Well, Good On You is all about empowering people to know the impact of brand and buy better. That's it in a nutshell. We've been around since 2015 when we started by creating an app that was launched in Australia and really trying to make values-based ethical shopping decisions easy for people. We're now a global digital platform. We're available on mobile and web so that people can use Good On You to essentially search how their favorite fashion brands are impacting on the issues they care about and importantly, giving them access to information and guides and tips to discover better brands, so that they can drive change towards a more sustainable future in fashion through their shopping decisions and purchasing decisions.
Brian: [00:01:57] That's amazing.
Sandra: [00:01:58] Behind the scenes I think people really recognize Good On You as an app and a consumer platform. But behind the scenes and I think really at our core we're a brand rating system. So our technology is an aggregator of information of publicly available brand data that assesses a brand's impact against material, social, and environmental issues in fashion.
Brian: [00:02:25] That's unbelievable.
Phillip: [00:02:30] Yeah. And very important and like incredibly important.
Sandra: [00:02:35] It's useful for the increasing number of shoppers who, I think, are like us in that they care more and more. They're worried about what's going on in the world, and they're starting to become aware of the issues behind the scenes in big business. And they want to use their influence and their power to change things. And Good On You provides a platform for that. And increasingly we're also useful for industry and for retailers that are keen to respond to that consumer care and a keen to connect with the growing conscious consumer market.
Brian: [00:03:19] It's so hard today to figure out what exactly is happening behind the scenes with a brand, and usually you're relying on information that they're giving you on their own products and "third party certification." But it's really hard to know which third party certifications are real. And I think that this is just like a long desired, long needed service to shoppers everywhere. We just released our Vision 2020 report. We did some research alongside of that. And generations coming up are caring more and more about how they vote with their dollars. And so it's just been really hard, I think, to make good decisions, informed decisions, without doing a ton of work. You're also having to do an immense amount of research about how the product is being manufactured, where the materials are being sourced and all of the above. And it's so much work to shop. And so I think it's just really, really important. No, it is true.
Phillip: [00:04:22] It is.
Brian: [00:04:22] It is. You want to care about how you're using your money. It's a lot of. work to shop.
Phillip: [00:04:27] Yeah.
Brian: [00:04:27] This is just, I think, such a groundbreaking and essential tool for a group of people, like Phillip says, millennials and Gen Zs aren't necessarily an age group, but for a group of people that are coming up and have a certain ethos.
Phillip: [00:04:44] The care now more than ever. Right? Like they can now more than ever. I'm curious, Sandra, you know, how would you define the criteria and what are some of the things that you look for in a brand that does well in the Good On You rankings?
Sandra: [00:05:01] You've touched on a couple of key points there that our ratings are based on public information. We're working in the fashion industry now. We have big plans to look at other consumer verticals in the future. But for now, we're focused on fashion, and there are literally hundreds of standards and certifications just in fashion alone. So we are navigating all of that. You know, you also mentioned that it's super hard for everyday people to understand and research and decipher that into something that can implement decision. So we say it is our job at Good On You to pull that information together and make sense of it for shoppers. And we're relying on public data because firstly, it holds brands to account and secondly, because we believe people have the right to know. And if we all had a lot of time on our hands, we'd be done. But if we did, we should be able to find this information that tells us how a brand is impacting on the issues we care about just as easily as we can tell the price and location or materials. So more specifically, we consider over 60 sustainability indicators, and we collect hundreds of data points against those areas of impact which are weighed and scored based on an assessment of materiality. And there're kind of three broad things or areas of impact that we consider that we know are really important to consumers that care. And that is the brand's impact on the environment, so sustainability factors. The brand's impact on people, so labor rights issues. And thirdly, a brand's impacts on animals and the use of animal products and the ensuring the protection of animal welfare in the production of those products.
Brian: [00:07:10] That's interesting. Those are the three sort of main categories. Impact on environment, impact on people, impact on animals.
Sandra: [00:07:17] Yeah. What we see in those that the issues run quite deep and are really complex because we're talking about complex supply chains in fashion that go across many, many tiers. And across many geographies, just in the production of one item.
Brian: [00:07:37] Right, exactly, yeah. I think there's probably a lot of common misconceptions about impact and sustainability and how different practices affect the different parts of the supply chain and what has a big impact and what has a small impact. I'm still trying to figure this out myself. What are you seeing that are like the most common misconceptions about sustainability and how these practices affect these different groups?
Sandra: [00:08:12] There're many I think that we grapple with it all the time. You know, on the one hand, some brands or companies will argue that there's a perfect solution and that's what they're getting behind. And at the other end of the scale, there's a reluctance to act and to communicate on sustainable and ethical practices because the problems just seem so big and challenging to tackle. So, you know, really there is no silver bullet, but there is absolutely a need for brands and consumers to act. And there is impact in that. You know, a very large company making a small change to move towards eco friendly materials, for example, can have a huge impact on the environment. And similarly, everyday consumers considering ethics and sustainability in their shopping choices, those daily decisions and those daily changes add up over time. And so there's value and imperative in both.
Brian: [00:09:26] Very interesting.
Phillip: [00:09:27] You know, we're getting new data all the time. Right? So, you know, as we come to know more about the inner workings of some companies who will remain nameless, but travel brand companies who have customer experience... Yeah, exactly. As these things come to light, and I'm sure as new information comes to light, on the sort of the human impact, I'm curious if you look at your rating criteria and sort of evolve it over time or are you rerating brands over time based on new information that comes to light? Tell me a little bit about sort of... It seems like an uphill challenge to continue to monitor public sources of information for brands you've already rated. And is that something that you're looking to crowdsource? How are you meeting that challenge?
Sandra: [00:10:24] We balance that with internal expertise. And, you know, we've got a team of environmental scientists and data scientists that are continuously scouring what's happening in industry and have a deep understanding of what is widely accepted industry best practice and are understanding and converting that information into something for shoppers. We also have a formal consultation process where we're actively engaging with leading experts on the specific issues that we're addressing in our ratings from Fashion Revolution and Fair Trade who help inform our labor rights ratings to Fashion Positive and Fashion For Good who are helping us frame and understand what best practice looks like in environmental issues. And most recently, Four Paws who are guiding our animal score and ratings of brands. So yeah, we build that expertise internally. We always have an eye on those external factors, and we regularly consult with the experts that help ensure our methodology for assessing brands is relevant, is up to date, and is as accurate as it can be and a reflection of what the industry is saying is leading practice or addressing social and environmental issues in fashion.
Brian: [00:12:06] Speaking of experts, I think we kind of skipped over an important question that I wanted to get into, which is tell me a little bit more about your background and your co-founder's background and how you got started and why you created this in the first place. And just give us a little bit more about your story. Obviously, I mean, I know a little bit already, but for for our listeners... I think it's really fascinating and I see you as an expert of the highest order, so it's very cool to know that you're doing this along with others. Give us the story.
Sandra: [00:12:44] Ok. Well, I'm calling today from my beautiful hometown, Melbourne. It's an interesting time here, actually. Thankfully, the skies are clear today, but I'm sure many of you have been following this story in the media of devastating fires across our country with so many people and animals suffering. Like many people, I'm really concerned about the future. I have been for a long time. And, you know, the impact that we as a society are having on the environment has been top of mind for a long while. But I do remain hopeful. And I'd like to think that I'm an optimist and have always had this idea that there's a role we can all play, whether it be individuals or business, to change things for the better. And I'm particularly motivated by what the role of that Good On You plays in all of that, but to go back a bit, I worked for many years in the corporate sector. Firstly, in supply chain management where I became really interested in sustainability issues and eventually in corporate social responsibility where I realized there was a big opportunity to use business as a force for good. And in particular to leverage and shift the flow of capital toward the right things, towards creating positive change, towards creating positive social and environmental change. In terms of the focus on fashion, I've always loved fashion, but a few years ago, in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, in fact, in 2013, which literally killed thousands of garment factory workers, I became increasingly aware of industry issues and became increasingly uncomfortable buying clothes. I was very fortunate at that time to meet my co-founder, Gordon. They say timing is everything, and it really was for me. And in the case of Good On You. Gordon was a leader on consumer behavior and consumer rights. Like you had been doing loads of interesting research on consumer trends and had identified really early on that more and more people were wanting to make values-based decisions, but that the information was completely missing in the market. So, you know, I was looking to drive change through business decisions, and he was looking to drive change through consumer decisions. And we saw where those two things married up perfectly and importantly, which led us to starting Good On You.
Phillip: [00:15:47] Your co-founder, Gordon Renouf, has a background in this sort of from the government perspective and in actually procuring these types of initiatives at the government level. Could you speak to that to some degree?
Sandra: [00:16:03] Actually he was the head of campaigns of a consumer advocacy body here in Australia called CHOICE, which is a nonprofit organization, partly funded by government, I believe. But essentially its purpose was to ensure that consumers had access to quality and price information that was fair and that they could rely on products that they purchased to do what it was intended to do. So, you know, there's some interesting similarities in alignment in Good On You's mission there in empowering consumers to make better informed choices. I guess what was missing from the CHOICE model at that time, and we still have a great relationship with CHOICE and have partnered on research actually in recent years, but Gordon identified that just as important as understanding the price and the quality of a product was another consideration for consumers. And that was its ethics. How it was made, where it was made, and the impact it was having on social and environmental factors.
Phillip: [00:17:26] And today, you know, now more than ever, I think you have an interesting strategy in that you're becoming a consumer brand in that folks who trust consumer brands should look at Good On You as a consumer brand in its own right. And, you know, you're establishing trust by creating content. And probably in theory, operating under the same values that you're probably holding other brands to account on. If I were to ask the question, you know, how would you go about rating the value systems or the ethical practices of other businesses is that even something that's possible from the outside without a brand approaching you and sort of being transparent? What would you say in response to that?
Sandra: [00:18:16] I think it's really hard to to rank a brand by its values. Good On You is not looking at the the moral or ethical positioning of another brand. But we are considering what the consumer values and the fact that it's closely tied to a brand's impact on people, planet, and animals. And, you know, unfortunately, that's often overlooked by many brands when they're talking to their own customer base or they target customers. It's something that is not yet common practice, but we think we can use Good On You to drive that forward and to change that conversation that brands are having with customers.
Brian: [00:19:12] Here's an interesting question. Tell us some of the brands that are doing it right and that have done it right since you started or since they started, that you know of. And then I'm going to sneak my follow up in right now as well... Which brands started poorly and have improved over time since you started tracking them?
Sandra: [00:19:32] Well, I will caveat that no brand has figured out how to do this perfectly yet. I mentioned before there's no silver bullet to supply chain transparency and sustainability, but they're are some awesome stories of brands that have literally built themselves from the ground up with these issues, not only in mind, but these issues front and center. I love, for example, what People Tree in the UK has done to really understand the practices of its entire supply chain and create environment where it's nurturing and empowering its workers, but predominantly it's female workers. Similarly, VEJA in France has become quite a cult in its following. They produce really cool sneakers that are mainstream and accessible to a wide audience. But even its brand name, which I believe is Portuguese for looking or to seeing, is steeped in this idea of being really open about where its its products were sourced and made and letting people know that, you know, having a visable supply chain is challenging, but it's something that they've committed to. There's organizations like Reformation in the US and Armed Angels in Germany, who I personally really love. You know, they lead with design and femininity, and they've created beautiful clothes. But they have it at their core, a commitment to sustainable materials and again, really engaging with their customers on the conversation of where those materials were sourced and how they constantly committed to reducing their use of chemicals and water and energy that are contributing to the issues we have in fashion today. What else can I say? I mean, there's an exciting trend around upcycling and recycling, which was, you know, kind of frowned upon in high end fashion a few years ago. But now is really cool from, you know, brands like Ecoalf, which is... And even Outerknown in LA that are turning ocean plastics in and regenerating that into new materials that have a really long life, sometimes come with a lifelong warranty. There's Nudie Jeans that offer also a warranty on their jeans and a repair service. So this idea of circularity and eliminating waste in supply chains but doing so in a way that creates really cool, longlasting products that people can value and cherish over time is key to environmental protection obviously, but also key to improving the relationship that people have with their clothes and the relationship that people have with their brands.
Phillip: [00:22:53] What's really interesting, too, I always think about sort of how you establish consumer trust and you know, you're putting yourself under a microscope here. So I would assume that you and your co-founder sort of have to... You're deep in this yourselves, but it seems like you're being pretty influential with other people that can speak on your behalf. In noticing a blog from last year about Emma Watson's support for brands that have been rated by Good On You, or why she trusts Good On You... Have you found that consumer buy in is coming from a lot of different angles and sort of celebrity support to help give and establish more trust for Good On You as a trusted source?
Sandra: [00:23:36] It's definitely changing over time and growing over time. I think, you know, there's always been a group of people that are highly engaged in issues of sustainability and ethics and have been trying to push forward a change in the industry. But the conversation around sustainability and fashion in particular is becoming way more mainstream. And celebrities probably have something to do with that. Social media, obviously, campaigns like Fashion Revolution, which, you know, now has millions of people that join the movement every year to question brands about where their clothes come from. So, yeah, you know, Good On You is, I believe, both helping to drive that movement as well as capitalize on that movement, in terms of giving a growing community of people the power to use their concern for something meaningful and also creating a platform for them to connect with one another and see that some of their heros, like Emma Watson, are also facing the same challenges, also have the same care for what's going on in fashion and are wanting to use tools and benchmarks like Good On You to inform their decisions.
Brian: [00:25:14] Yeah. And with that, do you feel that this celebrity attention, I mean, particularly Emma Watson... Did you work with her to sort of bring additional awareness to Good On You? And what did it look like to work with her? You feel like it sort of accelerated things? What was that experience like?
Sandra: [00:25:38] It's been so great working with Emma. She's now today, an official supporter of Good On You. It all started a couple of years ago, I think, when Emma was invited to be the guest editor of Vogue Australia's first sustainability issue. And she wanted to... She uses her platform and her influence to talk about the things that are important to her. She's done that for a really long time. She does it with care and careful consideration. And so she was keen to collaborate with Vogue, but was also keen to ensure that the story that we're telling and the brands they were promoting came with a level of consideration and robustness in choice. And so we were invited, Good On You was invited, at that time to be the verification partner for the issue. And that was our first opportunity to work with not only Vogue Australia, but Emma Watson in helping both of them identify and curate a selection of brands that Emma could wear with confidence that she could be sure were taking meaningful steps towards improving their social and environmental impacts. And that just started a really great and genuine relationship where, you know, we understood she faced the same challenges as many of Good On You followers and users. Of course, you know, she's on the red carpet a lot. And she identified something that we were sort of aware of but really highlighted that the luxury, in particular, segment of fashion that is traditionally been known to lead the industry was a little bit behind when it came to opening up to their customers about their practices on sustainability and making it even harder for celebrities like Emma, who were making a lot of public appearances in luxury clothing to choose right, to choose competence. So, you know, we since have worked with Emma on other sustainability issues, on other collaborations, most recently with Vogue UK, again, to try and navigate the complexity, in particular in luxury fashion, to identify those brands that are leading and are starting to recognise the need for change.
Phillip: [00:28:31] If I were a brand and I sense that I could get better if I ran a brand, my question to you would be... I'm sure luxury has some vested interest here. I'm curious if there are other brands that are non-luxury that might be able to put some of these practices into effect in their brand. And then also, I might go to you myself as a brand and say, "We need your help. We need to do this better." Is this a business model that you're looking to build out at Good On You? And how best could you help a brand that is trying to make itself better and to meet its customers' expectations?
Sandra: [00:29:16] Yeah, we get approached by brands all the time, especially today, maybe not in the early days, but we get approached by hundreds of brands. Firstly, those that are trying to lead on sustainability. They say Good On You as a great platform to connect with their target market. So we get approached by many of those brands that want to be assessed and want to be on our platform and want to connect with the Good On You community. At the other end of the scale we are approached by many mainstream brands, fast fashion brands, those brands that we all say on the High Street who are realizing the power of the Good On You community and are realizing the growing awareness and sentiment among consumers to want brands change. And so, you know, we don't want to consult individual brands and kind of limit our impact and outreach, in that way. We first and foremost create a platform where we connect the best brands to our community. We also work increasingly with multi-brand retailers like Farfetch, who's our largest customer, whereby we help those retailers understand the sustainability performance of their brand portfolio, identify and curate their own sustainable, ethical fashion ranges that they can communicate to their own customers and promote the best brands to their customers and help their customers know the impact of their brands and make better informed choices. We are focused. We have in our roadmap for this year to develop tools specifically for individual brands that are keen to improve, and that will be within the framework we already have in the Good On You methodology, whereby we can guide people through our methodology that looks at the most material issues in fashion and looks at the issues that consumers care about, and provide practical, useful tips and advice on those areas where they can effect meaningful change.
Brian: [00:31:51] So did I hear you correctly? So essentially you're creating a path for individual brands to be able to sort of move the needle, if you will? You're creating steps for them to take their brand from, perhaps not very sustainable to a more sustainable approach?
Sandra: [00:32:17] Yeah. Exactly. And basing it in the knowledge and the expertise that we've developed through our brand ratings methodology.
Brian: [00:32:28] That's amazing. And are you doing this for brands that are manufacturing their own goods or is this mostly for retailers that are selling an assortment?
Sandra: [00:32:37] For retailers that are selling an assortment, we already have a solution for them, and that is to use our rating system to assess their brand portfolio and to use the information and the insights that we have in our data to help them not only assess but source and market those leading sustainable brands to their customers. That's something that we do today. And, you know, we're really keen to increase the partnerships that we have with retailers to power their own sustainable fashion choices and to help them reach their customers with the sustainability information they're looking for. The direct to brands solution is still in the pipeline.
Brian: [00:33:29] So this is not just consumers. This is for brands as well. This is an assortment tool. This is the path to green, if you will. There's like a whole sort of up and down the whole purchasing cycle sort of solution. Speaking of which, you know, you've obviously you've had an app for a while. How are you bringing this app to market? You've gone direct to consumer. Obviously, you've had some some connection with Emma Watson and potentially other celebrities as well. What's your growth opportunity here? How are you going to continue to bring awareness to the consumer about Good On You? And are you going to leverage partnerships to do this? Are you gonna continue to work with celebrities? What's your sort of go to market strategy for the coming years?
Sandra: [00:34:30] Content marketing has always been, and will certainly continue to be, a focus for Good On You. We're essentially a go to content platform for consumers and increasingly for retailers as we were just talking about. So now we've been able to leverage that strength in our content to organically grow or to attract people that are, you know, literally searching on Google and social or the type of information that our ratings and our content provide. So content marketing and a focus on organic growth will continue to be part of our expansion strategy. You know, social media, of course, is an obvious one. Instagram is squarely where our community is at and where our community is conversing. And I think we have a very unique opportunity to continue to nurture that network and allow them to share ideas. Partnerships is absolutely key. And the relationships that we have with retailers we can see that to be a form of partnership. But more specifically, you know, working with the likes of a Fashion Revolution and Four Paws, who I mentioned before inform our methodology development, also share a similar mission to build a community and to build a movement for change. And it makes sense to not only align our approaches for assessing brands, but to allow our communities to talk and grow together. You know, I have to mention Emma Watson again. We're so lucky to have her support. She has huge influence and reach in the mainstream. And, you know, Good On You is not about talking to a niche group of people that think about sustainability every day. It's about reaching a really wide audience of people that want to feel good when they shop and aren't sure how to navigate the issues but want to join a community of people that they look up to or a community of people that are just like them that are really passionate for change. So, yeah, I'd say, you know, that is our mix. I'ts content marketing. It's social media. It's working with partners and it's leveraging the great support of Emma Watson to really drive and expand our business forward.
Brian: [00:37:22] That's amazing.
Phillip: [00:37:22] Wow. I don't even know how we could possibly end it better than that. I think that, you know, the biggest challenge that we all have here is spreading awareness that something like Good On You exists in the world because I think when consumers realize, not only would they use a service like this, I think they absolutely would, I just don't know that they have the awareness that it does exist. And this certainly fits within the realm of the types of stories we're trying to tell this year, which are really all about boundaries and creating healthy guidelines and defined boundaries for your brand, for you to be able to engage more thoughtfully and to engage people with more dignity, with the customers who are spending money and voting to support the things and the ideals that you hold dear in your brand. And so I think that this year around boundaries, I couldn't think of a better way to open the year than to talk to Good On You, who I think are helping brands to find those boundaries every day.
Brian: [00:38:33] Agreed.
Phillip: [00:38:33] I'm so glad that you exist. I'm rooting for you. We're rooting for you at Future Commerce, and I wish you all the success. I'm sure you'll be very successful.
Brian: [00:38:43] How can people get involved?
Sandra: [00:38:46] Thank you again for those kind words. Yeah, it does really mean a lot to know that we have people that believe in our mission from all corners of the earth. And there really is a way for everybody to get involved. I guess starting by checking out the Good On You app. It's a free app on mobile and now online where you can find thousands of brand ratings and make more informed choices. We also have a platform of tips and guides and ideas on our blog and newsletter. And on social media. You can join our community and join the conversation. I think, you know, importantly, I just wanted to tell everybody to stop and recognize that choices matter, that our individual choices matter. And every little step that we take does have impact over time and collectively has huge power to create change.
Phillip: [00:39:59] Wow, I think yeah. We do collectively have the power to create change. And as we always say on Future Commerce, the best way to predict the future is to shape the future. And I think we all have the power to make the world that we all want to live in. And I couldn't think of anyone better to start that with than with Good On You. Well, thank you so much, Sandra, for joining us on the show.
Sandra: [00:40:21] Thank you, Phillip. Thank you, Brian. It's been really great talking to you.
Phillip: [00:40:24] Same to you.
Brian: [00:40:25] Thank you.
Phillip: [00:40:25] Thanks for listening to Future Commerce. We want you to lend your voice to this conversation. You can do that at FutureCommerce.fm. And we think about these kinds of things all the time. Yeah. If you're not subscribed, you should be. And we'd love for you to do that, so you can be notified every time an episode comes out. And another way you can subscribe is to hear our long-form essays, or to read our long form essays, about these types of things, especially around the topic of boundaries. And you can get that every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. on our Future Commerce Insiders newsletter. You can subscribe to that over at FutureCommerce.fm as well. And remember, the future is what you make of it. So let's make a future we can all be proud of. Thanks for listening.