ARE THEY GREENWASHING OR NOT?
REVIEWING BRANDS' SUSTAINABILITY CLAIMS
We use our expertise and digital sleuthing to analyze brands' sustainability claims and determine if they are greenwashing.
SUMMARY OF OUR OPINION ON NISOLO
I was impressed with Nisolo’s sustainability-related activities. They are a Certified B Corp, have at least one employee that focuses on sustainability, and provide an impact report and many webpages and stories about their sustainability-related efforts. Nisolo has primarily focused on working conditions, living wages, etc. in the factories in which they source—in fact, they say they were audited by a well-known social compliance auditor called SGS, and they provide a lot of information about their factories. They are only beginning to address the environmental impacts associated with their leather sourcing, tanning, and production, but they are very transparent about needing to do more on that. And in the meantime, they are paying for carbon offsets. I also like how their efforts – living wages, charitable work, carbon offsets, etc. – center around the regions in which they produce their products. They are focusing on the country, namely Peru, that they know best.
I would like to see an update on their environmental efforts, especially as it relates to the sourcing of their leather (since producing leather can have a severe environmental impact), as well as a newer impact report.
WHAT TO ASK OF NISOLO
We know that brands respond when they hear from their customers. So, we always recommend you contact brands' sales or support lines to share your interest in their sustainability practices. And if you want to see them improve, ask them:
1. Thank you for your industry-leading sustainability efforts. You mention that your leather is only tanned in Leather Working Group certified tanneries, but how you ensure responsible and sustainable production of your raw leather?
2. What other environmental efforts are you focused on beyond the carbon offsets you mention on your website?
Here’s their contact information:
• Email: email@example.com
• Instagram: @nisoloshowroom
Do you know something I didn’t find? Tell me and I’ll update this.
Details of Nisolo's sustainability efforts
I focus on five elements of a leading sustainability program: (1) Sustainable leadership, (2), Sustainable materials, (3) Sustainable production, (4) Sustainable quality, and (5) Sustainable transparency. In each category, I post their claims, as well as the substantiation (proof) if any is provided. In some cases, I also include a brief analysis of my own.
01 SUSTAINABLE LEADERSHIP
Certified B Corporation: B Impact Score of 89 (https://bcorporation.net/directory/nisolo)
Sustainability executives: At least one employee focuses on sustainability according to Linkedin
Vision: “To push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction—where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price—a direction that not only values exceptional design, but the original producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.”
Living wages: Their FAQ’s impact section focuses exclusively on living wages for factory workers (https://support.nisolo.com/hc/en-us).
Awareness and transparency on their opportunities to improve: “This is an area where we believe we can do better than our current practices…. Currently, in order to minimize our carbon footprint, the majority of our raw materials are intentionally sourced and processed in close proximity of our production facilities. We frequently visit the third party suppliers to our factories, and we are increasingly able to use our purchasing power to encourage more environmentally friendly practices.”…“Going deeper into our supply chain”…“Improving our operational efficiency” // Analysis: I like that they are open and transparent about what they still need to do. This shows that the brand recognizes that they are not perfect (no one is), and that they’re continuing to strive for improvement. I much prefer this to a brand that proclaims they are fully “sustainable” (they’re likely not).
The Lowest Wage Challenge (https://www.lowestwagechallenge.com): ABLE and Nisolo have partnered to publish their lowest wages and launch the Lowest Wage Challenge.
Partnerships: “In full transparency, one of the brands in our marketplace hesitated to sign our Code of Conduct because they were unsure if their workers were receiving a living wage. This prompted them to dive in head first to find out. Their team discovered that a wage increase was needed in order to get the full team up to a living wage, and a plan was put in place to make the needed change.” // Analysis: I was excited to see that Nisolo helps other brands on their journey toward ethical production.
Ethical marketplace (https://nisolo.com/collections/ethical-marketplace):
Claim: “In pursuit of our vision to push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction, another goal of the marketplace is to expand the impact that our customers can create through their purchases. Of our 21 brand partners, five are certified B Corporations, and six are members of 1% For The Planet, meaning they give at least 1% of annual sales to environmental causes. All are committed to distinct forms of social and environmental impact, which include things like eliminating single-use plastics, ocean cleanup, conservation, sustainable agriculture, championing the work of independent artisans, advocating for living wages, and providing humanitarian medical aid. Central to the heart of each of our partners is a philanthropic business model that gives back to society and the environment more than it takes away.”
Claim: “100% of the brands in our marketplace have signed the Nisolo Code of Conduct. Our Code of Conduct was largely developed from the Social Accountability International’s SA8000 standard.” // Analysis: SA8000 is a strong standard and it is commendable that Nisolo has required all of the brands in its marketplace to follow this.
Claim: “We use an intensive, hybrid impact assessment built with third party experts that includes relevant elements of the Progress Out of Poverty and Human Development Index assessments.”
Claim: as relief to floods in Peru, “In addition to donating 10% of profits for a week, we were able to raise over $8,000 in relief funds for our producers, their families, and communities.”
Claim: “To offset our production’s carbon emissions, we have partnered with Ecosphere+ to implement an insetting program. (Insetting represents the actions taken by an organization to fight climate change within its own value chain in a manner which generates multiple positive sustainable impacts.)”…“Thanks to our customers’ purchases, we have protected 89,666 trees covering an area of 14,240,653 square feet (that’s 111 soccer fields!) from deforestation in the Amazon Basin, and inset 735 metric tons of CO2. This is the equivalent of taking 156 cars off the road for a year, or 82,705 gallons of gas consumed.” // Analysis: I’m glad they shared the name of the third-party they are purchasing offsets from, since I can determine that Ecosphere+ has projects that are verified by Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), a well-known standard.
Claim: “As we continue to combat the excessive amount of landfill waste that fast fashion has created, we are committed to working under a circular fashion model—a system that reuses and recirculates products and materials. Through a collaboration with Soles4Souls, we're collecting your shoes. These pairs will be given to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, enabling them to clean, repair and resell the shoes in their communities.” // Analysis: A good start for a small brand.
02 SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS
Claim: “When possible, we purchase from tanneries that have received certification from The Leather Working Group, the most well regarded third party certification in leather processing.” & Claim: “We are conscious of where and how we are sourcing our materials, which is why we are currently conducting a thorough investigation of our supply chain down to the farm level. Our team has visited and vetted all of our factories and leather tanneries for their social and environmental practices, and is excited to report that most of our tanneries have been certified through the Leather Working Group, a well respected third party that certifies tanneries for exceptional social and environmental practices.” // Analysis: Tanneries can be highly polluting, so it is good to see they are using mostly Leather Working Group certified tanneries. But this statement from Nisolo was from March, 2019, so I would like to see an update on their progress toward this commitment. Further, this only covers the tanning of the leather, not the sourcing of the leather itself. Leather production has a severe environmental impact on the climate, deforestation, and more – see this briefing for details. So, to fully understand Nisolo’s material’s impacts, we need a lot more information about how they produce and source the leather.
Claim: “No, we do not offer any vegan leather options at this time, however, that's definitely on our radar! We do have vegetable tanned leather bags, and most of our leather soles are vegetable tanned as well. Vegetable tanning is a process that uses tannins and other ingredients found in different vegetable matter, such as tree bark, wood, leaves, fruits, and roots. It's an old-world, artisanal process that's free of harmful chemicals.”
Claim: “All Nisolo jewelry is made from upcycled materials in Nairobi, Kenya, and our first venture into vegetable tanned leather, a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly tanning process, has come via our new partner factories. Unlike most tanning methods that use chrome and other chemicals (which can create a severe impact on the environment if not properly disposed), vegetable tanning uses natural oils from bark or plant tannins, which reduce the product’s environmental impact.” // Analysis: This is a laudable step; they say they will share more details soon, so since this isn’t a lot of information, I will look forward to seeing more.
Packaging: No information provided about their packaging.
03 SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION
Claim: “To serve as a model for the industry, we built our own facility from the ground up where all producers receive, at a minimum, the following: beyond fair trade wages, healthcare, and a healthy working environment”// Substantiation: “In addition to becoming a certified B Corporation, we conducted a third party audit of our factory in Peru through Société Générale de Surveillance SA (SGS), the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. We scored a 94 out of 100 possible points in areas ranging from health and safety, wages, working schedule, proper management of chemicals and hazardous materials, and management’s attitude toward social compliance and ethical treatment of employees.” // Analysis: This is a leading and commendable effort, especially for a small brand. They provide a lot of information and data about their ethical standards, and factory wages and working conditions in their factories.
Claim: “The materials for our products (including the leather, fabric, buckles, and other peripheral components) are sourced from Peru (mostly in Trujillo and some from Lima), Mexico, and Kenya. The majority of our production takes place in Peru, and we intentionally source raw materials in-country across all modes of production to reduce our environmental impact.” // Analysis: I like seeing these details since it shows they have a grasp on sourcing their materials.
Shipping: No information provided.
04 SUSTAINABLE QUALITY
Share any information you know about the quality of Nisolo’s products. We need to understand how long their products last – the higher-quality and longer-lasting, the better its sustainability profile.
05 SUSTAINABLE TRANSPARENCY
Sustainability report: Provides an in-depth Impact Report on their website (https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0277/9027/files/Impact.Report.desktop.pdf?11573076809481672033).
Website: Detailed information is easily accessible on its website. Nisolo’s blog has a lot of content about ethical and sustainable production, materials, etc. (https://nisolo.com/pages/all-blogs).
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