Redefining Transparency: product environmental performance on display
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The new transparency:
facilitating consumer insight into sustainability performance

There are multiple factors driving the fast-growing need for transparency around sustainability impacts. What’s clear is that consumer need is at the core of it. Through their purchasing decisions, shoppers wield enormous power. They are shaping sustainability in the apparel industry today and in the future.

Understanding the consumer—his or her motivations, purchasing behaviors, and responses to information—is already a fundamental part of product design, pricing, marketing, store experiences and more. Now, this same level of understanding must be brought to communicating sustainability performance.

Confusing and unclear labelling contributes to a lack of trust in brands’ communication about their products.


According to a Eurobarometer poll, almost half of European citizens do not trust claims about the environmental performance of products.


Six out of ten think that current product labels do not provide enough information about their environmental impact.


About half think the labels are not clear.

To address this challenge, the European Commission created an initiative to build the Single Market for Green Products. This will standardize the rules and measurement criteria for the environmental footprint of products throughout the full lifecycle.

In the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) Pilot, the SAC working group collaborates with Europe’s leading footwear brands, retailers and expert stakeholders to to develop the methodology for evaluating the environmental impacts produced over the footwear life cycle. 

To date, this has involved achieving consensus around the lifecycle of a pair of shoes; prioritizing the environmental impact of all phases from production to transportation, and establishing a method for capturing that impact. Befitting the SAC’S commitment to transparency, each participating brand was required to share their internal research about their products’ footprints. Then, working closely with the SAC facilitators and sustainability communications consultants Salterbaxter, the participating brands developed and are currently testing a label and supporting consumer communication. The final results of this pilot will be shared publically in December 2016, and will guide the industry in its next steps toward transparency.

Stella McCartney
WL Gore

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