Our Let’s Get Sustainable series spotlights Klarna retailers who are setting an example for the industry through incredible efforts to protect both people and the planet.
We sat down with Matt Stockamp, Sustainability Lead at Nisolo, to learn more about the brand’s offering, journey to B-corp certification, and long-term vision for the fashion industry.
What does being a ‘sustainable brand’ mean to you?
At Nisolo, our vision is to convince the fashion industry to value our planet and the people who make the clothes and shoes we wear just as much as the industry values the dollars of end consumers. Nisolo = 100% Living Wages + 0% Net Carbon. We believe “sustainability” must contemplate the impact on both people and the planet. This is why we’re committed to 100% living wages and 0% net carbon emissions as our highest level metrics of accountability.
A sustainable brand also measures all of its social and environmental impacts and invests in proven methods to improve those impacts. We are transparent about our practices with all of our stakeholders, especially customers, and seek third-party verification from outside organizations like B Lab and Climate Neutral to ensure we’re doing meaningful work.
What drove the decision to make sustainability such a big part of your mission?
We started Nisolo to improve social and environmental practices across the entire fashion industry. The fashion industry is a mess, and it’s time to do something about it.
From a people perspective, 93% of fashion brands are not paying factory workers a living wage that covers basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, and healthcare (Clean Clothes Campaign, 2020). Experts estimate that less than 5% of people making clothing around the world receive a living wage, meaning 95% of producers in the fashion industry are being held in systemic poverty. And 75% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 24 (Fashion Revolution, 2017).
From a planet perspective, creating nearly 10% of the world’s carbon footprint today and on track to make up 26% by 2050, the fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to climate change, emitting more emissions than the international aviation and shipping industries combined (Ellen Macarthur Foundation). Not only is fashion one of the top 5 most polluting industries due to dirty, unregulated manufacturing, but 85% of the clothes we wear end up in landfills even though 95% could be reused or recycled (Council for Textile Recycling, 2021).
We can all do better. We have to. As is often said, “there is no Planet B.”
You were recently B Corp certified. Can you share a bit more about the significance of the B Corporation for retail brands and what it means to your business?
We believe the greatest threat to environmental progress in the fashion industry is greenwashing–spending more time, effort, and money on publicly appearing to be environmentally responsible, rather than investing in ways to actually be environmentally responsible. We believe the answer is having third-party verification, which is when an independent organization audits your social and environmental practices to assess and verify whether they’re legit. Nisolo turned to B Lab to help us measure and verify our impact so that we can continuously improve.
B Corp Certification is the most rigorous and holistic third-party verification in existence today, and Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. They embrace a new way of doing business; one that we need to envision a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy and planet. Certifying as a B Corporation goes beyond a product- or service-level certification; it’s the only 3rd party certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance, which makes it difficult to obtain. The organization does an excellent job of looking under the hood of our entire business to verify what’s working well and point out where we can be improving.
Over 50,000 organizations have taken the B Impact Assessment (BIA)–the survey all companies must complete to obtain B Corp status–and less than 7% qualify with a passing score of 80 or more. Today, there are 3,821 certified B Corps across 150 industries in 74 countries, and 114 B Corps operate in the fashion industry. Nisolo is now one of the top-rated footwear and accessories brands across all Certified B Corporations with a BIA score of 115.4, ranking amongst the top 10% of all B Corps in fashion. For us, being a B Corp means we’re adhering to, and held accountable for maintaining, the best practices possible for all of our stakeholders, and the environment. Make sure you’re asking your favorite brands how they stack up and encourage them to pursue Certified B Corporation status.
Shoppers today are more value-driven than ever before. What response do you get from your consumers with regard to your sustainability mission?
It’s a core pillar of our business that resonates deeply with our consumers. We get a lot of positive engagement from them for recognizing that our efforts need to be inclusive of people and the planet. As an example, last year, we published our lowest wages across our supply chain and asked customers to challenge other brands to do the same. Thousands of nominations were submitted, calling on 566 different brands to publish their lowest wages, and dozens of brands—large and small—expressed interest in participating.
It’s becoming more important to customers that their dollars are being spent at brands that share similar values. We hope that customers will start to ask the hard questions that can really differentiate the brands that are putting in true effort vs. those who are looking to check the box for their marketing team.
Do you have any interesting consumer trends or insights you’d be willing to share? I.e. what are they shopping/demanding more of and how has this changed over the past year?
Customers at large are becoming more aware of fashion’s social and environmental impacts and 88% want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily life (OnePulse, 2018). This bodes well for brands like Nisolo, and brands that don’t address their social and environmental impact will eventually be left behind. We make it clear right on our product page when you’re shopping for your next pair of sustainable shoes or accessories what impact we have on both people and the planet.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to retailers big or small that are interested in tackling sustainability but don’t know where to start?
It’s important to remember that “sustainability” has been overcomplicated. At the end of the day, the work is to figure out who is involved in making your products. Where do they live? How are they paid? What are their aspirations? What can you do as a business to improve their livelihoods? Get on a call with your suppliers to find out.
The same is true from a planet perspective. What natural resources are you dependent on for making your products? How can you give back more to the planet than you take away? Lean on the work of experts who are already in this space, and evaluate how your practices compare to standards like B Lab’s by taking the B Impact Assessment. It’s free after all. What you find will inform where you should be focusing your efforts. Remember the words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Don’t stress about having it all figured out. We certainly don’t. Just start by taking the first step.