Clothing Eco Labels
Just as your crisps tell you they have high fat or salt content, or your light bulbs tell you if they're efficient or not, we think the high street should clearly, honestly help you choose better products.
A simple A-G rating in the same style as the highly successful EU energy rating label would help consumers shop quickly, with a conscience. We developed the idea and petitioned Number 10 to enforce it in 2010. Since then our ecolabelling system has helped our customers choose more sustainable Rapanui products and forced us to change our designs to respond.
Ecolabels in 10 seconds
Our economies work on demand and supply, product vs price choices. But even Marshall, the economist who summed it up, admitted it only works with perfect information. Ecolabels try and help consumers by cutting through what's out of sight and out of mind. We think ecolabels are great, but there are too many brands of ecolabels, that are too black and white. We want a scale, run by the EU from opendata. Tests on our own site showed people bought more A rated stuff and less D rated stuff. Our clothing ecolabel works.
We still have boxes of D rated products that no longer sell. Ecolabelling forced us to focus designing more A rated products.
"The rules of economics say that if a customer demands, the market supplies. But 'to make a point, you must exaggerate a lot and omit even more.' Nowadays, few people understand or have access to where things come from and how they are made. Not just consumers, companies too."
We can't expect people to just change, or to hope education will sort it out in future generations. We think companies can fix it: Companies are great at communication. Take Apple, who managed to communicate it's way along the path to getting an iPhone in every house in the land. Imagine if we could do the same for something with less plastic and metal. People want iy too. The Global Consumer Wind survey showed that 90% of consumers globally wanted to see more renewable energy used to make the things they buy. Companies can connect the dots.
Each Briton spends on average £624 on clothes each year whilst the population of the UK purchases approximately three billion garments per year, equivalent to 50 items per person. Few of these items are purchased with consideration of their origins.
The look and feel vs. price comparison, or the point where we decide to buy is a fun, intuitive and visual experience. Small print, specifications or logos on washtags are incompatible and inconvenient. Good Ecolabelling adds value to good design, and strips value from bad design.
The same system of ecolabelling on energy efficient light bulbs was applied by the EU. By enforcing the regulation of switching to energy saving bulbs, EU citizens will save close to 40 TWh (roughly the electricity consumption of Romania, or of 11 million European households) and will lead to a reduction of about 15 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Won't companies just cheat?
Unregulated it would be too easy for companies, including us, to just slap an A on everything: We believe that clothing Ecolabelling should be an independently verified process. Our aim is to continue to develop and promote of the idea until the EU makes it law.
For now, this is how our labels translate at Rapanui.
- A... Made from organic material in an ethically accredited, wind powered factory.
- B... Made from either an ecological material or made with renewable energy, in an ethically accredited factory.
- C... Made in an ethically accredited supply chain.
- D... Some of the above but lack of traceability, or traceability and none of the above..
- E... None of the above.
Our Question & EU response
In September 2011 we sent off a question to Brussels via UK MEP Catherine Bearder to find out what the EU is doing about clothing eco labelling. In Janurary of 2012 we received the following response:
- The Commission is aware of the confusion caused by the multiplicity of voluntary labels and increasing consumer perceptions of "greenwashing". It therefore announced that it will look into the feasibility of an initiative on the Ecological Footprint of Products to establish a common European methodology to assess the environmental impact of products and label such products.
1."Towards a Single Market Act", COM(2010) 608 final/2 of 11.11.2010 and "Single Market Act Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence" COM(2011) 206 of 13.04.2011
We're still eagerly waiting.
Game-Changing clothing ecolabelOur clothing ecolabel helps consumers shop quickly, with a conscience. We use supply-chain assessment tools to benchmark our overall impact, then round it up into a score and display it on our swingtags and site - and are working with EU MEPs to make it law.
*Important Disclaimer - Rapanui is proposing and is currently field-trialling an eco-label scheme modelled on the EU energy-rating label, following discussions with representatives for the European parliament.
This development work is being carried out by Rapanui with a view to handing over the draft framework fully to a parliamentary commission. However, it should be noted that Rapanui's A-G clothing ecolabel proposal is not currently a scheme, policy, service or certification currently provided by an independent organisation, nor is it not recognised by government or any governmental organisation, or affiliated in any official way with current EU legislation. Instead it is intended to be a real-life demonstration by Rapanui to show and document the viability of a scheme, with the purpose to gather data and raise awareness of it's potential to improve the clothing industry.
As such until further notice, the ecolabel ratings shown here should be treated as a rough guideline rating by Rapanui to advise the consumer of overall impact of the product, in Rapanui's opinion compared to a base-case example.