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Consumers Should Look for This One Thing in Sustainable Denim Brands

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As more denim brands make unsubstantiated sustainability claims, it can be difficult for consumers to know which ones are legitimate and which ones aren’t.

During the online Transformers Catalysts event on Tuesday, founders of ethical denim brands explained how to differentiate truly sustainable brands from the others—and that involves looking for demonstrations of transparency.

“You can identify companies that aren’t very sustainable by just looking at their transparency,” said Jordan Nodarse, founder and creative director of Boyish Jeans. “If a company doesn’t have a sustainability report, measure their carbon emissions, or [explain where everything is sourced from], those are red flags.”

To optimize transparency and gain trust, some brands are beginning to adopt the latest technologies that can provide that for consumers. Nodarse noted that his brand has been working with a supply-chain tracking solution that is set to go public in the next two weeks. The technology will help map out the brand’s entire supply chain, providing consumers with information on certifications and audits that indicate genuine sustainability.

But tracking technology isn’t always the answer—especially for very small teams. Anna Foster, founder and creative director of E.L.V. Denim, explained that it’s not a feasible strategy for her one-person team.

“From my point of view, spending my time investing in blockchain would mean I’m not working with my suppliers to develop more products out of waste,” said Foster, whose business model is built on reimagining jeans that already exist. “My time is probably better spent doing [the latter] until I’m big enough.”

Instead, Foster relies on clear and effective marketing to educate consumers. She highlighted a video, “E.L.V. Denim Journey of the Sustainable Jean,” which was uploaded to YouTube in March as a way to provide customers a glimpse into her small supply chain. Each of her partners is located within a five-mile radius of her office.

When it comes to effective communication, engaging videos like Foster’s is important. However, panelists agreed that there also needs to be a mix of robust technical information for the more educated consumer, as many are becoming increasingly knowledgeable on the intricacies of the denim supply chain.

“It’s important to give the right information, be true, be honest and be 100 percent transparent and be traceable,” said Tony Tonnaer, founder and CEO of Amsterdam-based Kings of Indigo, which recently published a sustainability report that spans 80 pages. “I think if you do that, you can answer any question—and we get really tough questions from consumers these days. They’re really critical, which keeps us on our toes. Consumers are getting super smart.”

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