Our Sustainability Criteria – How We Rate Brands

Our Sustainability Criteria - How We Rate Brands

Sourcing Playground’s sustainability assessment is a comprehensive assessment of how a brand sources their products, the materials they use, social and environmental compliance of their factories and an overview of their company.

Sourcing Playground collaborated with remake to create our criteria and sustainability questionnaire.

Sustainability Questionnaire Sections – What We Cover

Our questionnaire covers five topics including the following and is scored out of 100.
We have scored the questionnaire weighted in favour of labour and environmental issues as this is usually where issues arise in apparel manufacturing and negatively impact socially and the environment.

Transparency

Transparency & Traceability

Disclosing information about your supply chain and if your products can be traced through all your suppliers.

Labour

Labour

Workers rights, protection, training, health & safety & more.

Environment

Environment

Are you and your suppliers trying to reduce carbon footprints, water usage, reduction of harmful chemicals and techniques.

Raw-Materials

Raw Materials

How sustainably grown or sourced are the raw materials of your products and do you use low impact raw materials.

Leadership

Leadership

Is your company active and highlighting better purchasing practices, slow fashion or more ethical consumption.

  1. Transparency & Traceability
    We ask brands to provide evidence of the level of information they disclose about their factories and suppliers, the conditions of those factories. We also ask brands whether they highlight areas of improvements they (as a company) are taking to constantly improve and reduce their impact. We cover areas of traceability and if the brand traces tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers.
  2. Labour
    We ask brands a range of different questions from whether they enforce that there is: no forced labour, living wage, no child labour, freedom of association, health & safety procedures, training etc. Also, whether the companies are involved with external programs investments to help the wider communities.
  3. Environment
    We cover a range of different topics including carbon emissions, waste, water usage at the factory. Whether the products produced can be recycled, or reclaimed. Ensuring that no harmful chemicals or techniques are used to produce their products. Unlike a lot of assessments, we have included a section about shipping to ensure the brand is minimising their carbon footprint for shipment of their goods.
  4. Raw Materials
    We ask brands to highlight which materials they use for their products for us to calculate the environmental impact to produce their products. We also cover the human rights of the raw materials suppliers.
  5. Leadership
    It is important that brands are openly encouraging better purchasing practices / ethical consumption as manufacturing and better production helps but essentially lowering consumption is one of the biggest aspects of sustainability. We ask brands to highlight how they are trying to encourage and promote sustainability and better consumption.

Raw Materials

To evaluate and calculate the score for the raw materials we use the MSI (Materials Sustainability Index) created by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

A comprehensive product created by the SAC, used to assess and calculate the impact of materials & fabrics.

It is also important to note that the Higg MSI index rate the materials from “Cradle to Gate” i.e. it does not take into account what happens after the textile has been produced. So, for instance some plastic based textile can have an effect on the environment when washed by the end user and this is not something considered by the Higg Index. The fact that a garment can be recycled or not is also ignored.

Therefore, for best results we need to consider both the Higg index score and what happens to the garments after it has been products.

Our Verification

Our questionnaire is comprehensive and is based on an evidence & proof basis. We ask brands to back up their claims providing evidence for certain questions. This can be in the form of:

  • Certification standards their suppliers hold
  • Code of conducts
  • Website links
  • Presentations
  • Company reports

It is important that Sourcing Playground can check any claim made by a brand to ensure compliance is met throughout our questionnaire.

Sourcing Playground checks the evidence submitted by the brand in order for us to award points to specific questions. If we feel insufficient evidence has been submitted, we will not award points.

Scoring System

Brands who score 60 / 100 and higher will officially “pass” our questionnaire and will be announced as a better brand. Any brand who passes will be awarded:

  • Better Brand certificate
  • Badge
  • Will be listed on our website

Brands who pass will be awarded a 1-5 star badge depending on how well they scored. (5 star being the highest score).

Better-Brand-Badge-5stars

1 star rating (60 – 68 / 100)
Brands who have only just started their journey into sustainability and cover the basics.

2 star rating (69 – 76 / 100)
Brands who cover the basics well and have put further steps in place to create more meaningful ways to be more sustainable

3 star rating (77 – 84 / 100)
Brands who score very well in the basics. Their supplier base is either certified or have steps / measures in place to ensure compliance.

4 star rating (85 – 92 / 100)
Brands who are scoring highly in most of the sections and have implemented innovative steps to reduce their impact moving forward.

5 star rating (93 – 100 / 100)
Brands who are doing exceptional work. Very comprehensive and scores highly in all sections.

Certificates & Badges for Brands Who Pass

Any brand who scores 60 & higher will be awarded with a certificate and badge.

The certificate will be awarded to the brand, which will be dated and valid for 1 year.

All brands holding a valid / up to date certificate will be listed on our website with their corresponding star rating.

The badges that are awarded to brands show the star rating the brand has achieved.

Certificate-Better-Brand-Example

Usage Rights

Brands who have passed and have been awarded a certificate and badge will have the usage rights to use the badges for company communication helping to show off and present how well their brand is doing in terms of sustainability. It is important for the brands who are putting efforts, measures and implementing steps to reduce their impact to have the recognition they deserve.

Brands can only use the certificate and badge for as long as their certificate is valid for.

Once the 1 year has ended, brands will need to reapply (filling out the online questionnaire) to generate their new score to be reassessed by Sourcing Playground.

  • If the brand increases their score then a new certificate and badge will be awarded for them to use and they will continue to be listed on our website.
  • If a certificate is out of date, the brand will be shown on our website as “expired”. They will need to reapply.
  • If unfortunately for some reason brands go down in score then we will still list the previous years rating with the current year. The report that Sourcing Playground creates will therefore become very useful and important to help the brand improve.

Pricing

1. Free 

Brands can fill out the online questionnaire and generate a free score. The score will be sent to them by email.

  • The score will not be checked or verified by a member of Sourcing Playground and therefore cannot be used by the brand.
  • As the score is not checked by a member of the Sourcing Playground team then it may not be accurate. The free score should be used for brands to get an idea of where their brand scores rather than an accurate picture of their sustainability.

2.  Verified – from $399

Sourcing Playground will create an in-depth report which will detail the brands’ overall score and also where the brand scored in each question.

  • We will include our suggestions and advice based on the information the brands’ have provided where they could improve their score (reducing their impact or improving their transparency for example). The report will highlight the areas that the brand needs to focus on and how they can go about implementing these changes.
  • Brands who pass will be awarded with a certificate, badge and will be listed on our website. These brands have the usage rights to be able to communicate their score with their customers

3. Verified + Consultancy – from $990

The Verified + Consultancy package will include

  • Everything as part of the Verified package, including: in-depth report, brands who pass will be awarded a certificate, badge, and listed on our website.
  • It will also include a consultancy package providing tailored one 2 one advice from our sourcing experts.
  • If there is a need to look at working with new manufacturers or suppliers then we can offer advice about which companies’ brands should be looking for.
  • The package will also include a free private project posted on Sourcing Playground to help find better manufacturers to work with

Pricing is based on brand’s revenue

Revenue Verified Verified + Expert
Startup (not yet trading) $399 $990
< $100,000 $519 $1,287
$100-$500k $674 $1,673
$500-$1M $750 $1,840
$1M-$3M $809 $2,008
$3M-$10M $971 $2,409
$10-$25M $1,165 $2,891
$25-$100M $1,398 $3,469
$100M+ $1,678 $4,163

Limitations of our own approach

At Sourcing Playground, we strongly believe that there is no such thing as a completely sustainable approach (yet?) when manufacturing clothes. However, we can certainly try hard to make them more sustainable! We wrote about it here:

It feels great to make positive changes and sometimes it’s hard to admit when we are not doing so great. We believe the best brands tell the truth and therefore we want to do the same.

Throughout our questionnaire, we often refer to certification and certified audits. Unless you are a larger brand and are able to audit each element of your supply chain yourself, then certifications are a great way to ensure that factories have been checked by a real person against specific standards and have passed certain criteria.

However, this approach is not perfect. Some certifications and audits have been criticised in the past for their shortcomings, especially in China. For more information, we recommend reading this report from the Clean Clothes Campaign: https://cleanclothes.org/file-repository/resources-publications-05-quick-fix.pdf/view

The report states

“Auditing is a critical first step towards trading ethically, but we also need to look beyond audits for their own sake. Sourcing companies need to remind themselves that auditing is only a means to an end, and that it is only one piece in the jigsaw of ethical sourcing.”

“The evidence shows that credible efforts to implement codes of conduct cannot rely on social auditing alone, important though it is. Quality social auditing should be combined with other tools to address and remediate violations of workers rights, including:

– partnership with local organisations,
– grievance and complaints mechanisms,
– education and training,
– a pro-active approach to freedom of association,
– addressing existing business or purchasing practices,
– effective remediation, and
– transparency.”

However, we recognise that this is only possible for larger brands and hence only recommend it to brands of an appropriate size.