How Two Retailers Use Product Life Cycle Transparency for Good

You can extend the life cycle of your most beloved items by donating them to charitable causes that ensure longer life spans. You can repurpose wood, glass and bottles into home decor and furnishings or even learn basic crafting hacks to transform an old pair of pants or shirt into a new tote or scarf.

While small contributions to reduce our carbon footprint add up to make a big difference, some innovative companies are taking environmental commitments several steps further, with tools to help consumers think differently about the product life cycle and what it really entails.

Here’s a look at how two retailers — Everlane and Reformation — use product life cycle transparency to encourage consumers to think consciously about what they buy and what those purchases ultimately cost, in terms of not just dollars but environmental and social impact, too.

Everlane

You may shop Everlane to find deals on women and men’s apparel and accessories, but this primarily online retailer is committed to much more than providing customers with the lowest price or padding its pockets with the highest profit. In fact, the brand has publicly stated its commitment to selectivity with factories it partners with to ethically produce products while maintaining close working relationships with each facility to ensure the integrity of their processes.

On its website, Everlane provides the story behind every factory it uses (many of which also produce high-end designer-label merchandise), including the year the relationship began, the number of workers the factory employs and where it’s located. Everlane’s tees, for example, are produced out of a factory a few miles outside downtown Los Angeles. Plus, the owner’s office is near the production line to ensure quality and satisfactory working conditions, and the Everlane staff visits the facility three times a week.

Everlane also produces travel bags out of a factory in Vietnam, thanks to a relationship with a reputable factory owner dedicated to providing positive working conditions for employees. Everlane acknowledges the relationship wasn’t easy to build, but it’s resulted in benefits far more valuable than monetary profits.

Everlane also breaks down the hard costs it absorbs in the life cycle for each item — including materials, hardware, parts, labor, duties, taxes and transport fees — to indicate how they arrived at the item’s retail price. Retailers commonly boast about offering lower prices than competitors while rarely disclosing their own profit margins, but Everlane offers a fresh approach to transparency, making consumers think a little harder about the number on a price tag and whether the amount they’ll save on a given purchase is truly valuable.

Reformation

Founded in 2009 with a mission to “lead and inspire a sustainable way to be fashionable,” Reformation designs and manufactures the majority of its collection in Los Angeles. It’s committed to sourcing sustainable fabrics and materials to produce high-quality style with minimal environmental impact. Each Reformation product sold online indicates the item’s ranking on its proprietary RefScale — measuring how much carbon dioxide, water and waste was used (or saved) in the product life cycle, starting with the growth of the textile’s fibers through the point when the consumer has finished using the item. It also provides a point of reference to indicate how the RefScale figure compares to the environmental impact associated with products that aren’t manufactured with a focus on reduced impact.

While Reformation admits that its processes aren’t yet 100 percent sustainable, the company is committed to improving and paying its proverbial dues in the meantime. The company plants trees, invests in clean air and water solutions and purchases landfill gas offsets to replace what it’s taken from the environment in its production, manufacturing and fulfillment processes.

When retailers invest in product life cycle transparency, it enhances working conditions, helps you create a more conscious closet in your household and promotes a greener future for everyone.

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