Posted in Thoughts — 26. March 2021 — Written by Sophie

You might have seen the Scandi brand GANNI pop up in our conscious shopping inspirations lately. We have been celebrating their efforts to become more sustainable and loved finding more and more responsibly made pieces in the brand’s collections. GANNI has recently launched the Instagram account @ganni.lab that gives more insights into their sustainability activities as well as a yearly sustainability report.  

Today we want to critically ask ourselves whether we might have been too thrilled and blinded by very good marketing (or greenwashing) activities or if GANNI – a brand that calls itself “not sustainable” – should be supported or not. So it all comes down to the question: how sustainable is GANNI really?

In 2021 Ganni introduced an external responsibility board to support the brand in becoming “the most responsible version” of themselves. This external board should add accountability and independent perspectives to the brand since its members are not tied to Ganni’s financial performance. The board consists of former CEO of Global Fashion Agenda Eva Kruse, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue, model and activist Lily Cole as well as Bear Scouts founder Dio Kurazawa. It’s good to see diverse voices in the board and hopefully the board will challenge GANNI’s current standards. 

Ganni puts 3 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals at the core of everything they do, gender equality, responsible production and consumption and climate action. Further they are committed to reach the targets set out in the UNFCCC and NPEC. The UNFCCC aims to drive the fashion industry to net-zero Greenhouse Gas emissions no later than 2050. We probably all agree that 2050 is a long time away and that by all means we and GANNI need to get there faster!! The NPEC, New Plastic Economy Vision, translates to the vision of a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste. That sounds like a fairytale economy but we are here for it. 

But what is GANNI doing to actually reach these goals?

For their raw materials they are already using GOTS certified organic cotton, GRS certified recycled polyester as well as recycled cotton, Lenzing’s viscose and they are working on introducing RWS certified responsible wool in 2021. As we explained in a recent Instagram post in order to use the GOTS certified claim the brand itself needs to be certified which is a process that GANNI is currently taking part in. It further says in the brand’s responsibility report that some of the mills and manufactures they work with are certified to the above standards. As always this is knowledge we as consumers cannot evaluate because it is insufficient. Ganni needs to be more transparent and actually tell us how many of their mills and manufactures are certified and how they are certified. Then we can make our judgement if it’s good enough for our standards.

GANNI put in place different activities to increase the life of their products including post-consumer initiatives. The brand’s archive store in Copenhagen gives customers the opportunity to shop previous seasons and one-off samples at discounted prices. In 2019, the rental platform GANNI Repeat was launched – however only for the Danish community. The products are rented 0,55 times on average, which means rentals are still not a good business case for the brand, which is frustrating since it will only have an impact on the climate crisis if it is performing otherwise it’s too easy to become a marketing activity instead of a drive for change. 

The current global pandemic also means full warehouses and while Ganni never wants to destroy unsold clothing they work with SOEX in Germany to re-sell and unsold GANNI stock. The brand claims this is the last step they would take before that they will try and find ways to upcycle unsold clothes into new collections or store concepts. In 2020 Ganni also had a pop up repair and customization event in their CPH store. A lot of the efforts that GANNI puts into the increase of their product life cycles are very much aimed at the local community in CPH but we still believe that this is a start into the right direction. They also had a take-back program in place but the business partner decided to end their business relationship. Why? The amount of material waste GANNI handed over to the partner, was not enough for them to drive a financially sustainable recycling business from the brand. 

What about gender equality?

In a recent post on the ganni.lab Instagram account the company highlighted the breakdown of women and men working at Ganni and (sort of) the positions they have in the company. This is a start but it’s not good enough, yet. There is a desperate need for even more transparency in big fashion houses like Ganni. We need to know how many of these women are BIPOC, how many of these women are disabled as well as how many of these women identify as trans. Of course, this is needed for the male and non-binary employees as well. It’s important to talk about the women at Ganni in an intersectional way to really celebrate those numbers!

While we are at the topic of inclusion Ganni has founded an internal diversity and inclusion working group, employees receive unconscious bias training and they launched an anti-racism library to give employees the possibility to further educate themselves. We love to hear about these initiatives but yet again we are missing full transparency on the GANNI workforce. We want more answers in 2021. But the good news is GANNI is currently conducting their own internal research to obtain transparent information on how diverse the company is alongside gender conformity and non-binary data. It’s good to see that GANNI not only acknowledges these shortcomings but is also implementing actions to become more transparent. 

Responsible production – what does that mean at GANNI?

We feel the need to stress that responsible production is not only about the materials that are being used in the production process such as fibres, dyes and the overall chemicals needed to get the raw material into a fibre. It is also about the transparency and traceability of the supply chain and knowing each and every element of said supply chain. Ganni currently has strong relationships (100% transparency) of their tier 1 manufactures, which focus on cutting and sewing. To push change past tier 1, GANNI needs to address their lack of traceability further along their supply chain. The brand is now working with the HIGG index to reach their goal of full traceability on tier 1-3 suppliers by 2021. 

Another element of responsible production is the actual people that produce the clothes. While GANNI gives in depth accounts on the people working directly for the company, what about the people that make the GANNI clothes? Is there any assurance that minimum wages, safe working conditions (no toxic chemicals, no coal, …), no harassment and the like are being adhered to by the tier 1-3 manufactures? The brand responded to those questions under an Instagram post and explained that all tier 1 suppliers are asked to sign a Code of Conduct that ensures the above. Right now 41 (out of how many? We don’t know…) tier 1 suppliers have signed the Code of Conduct. Now, will GANNI implement the Code of Conduct further down the supply chain, too? What happens if a supplier doesn’t sign the Code of Conduct? The brand also explained that the manufactures are not audited to see if they adhere to the Code of Conduct. There are definitely more questions to answer about workers rights as this is the most vague part of GANNI’s sustainability efforts – we will have an eye out for answers in their updated responsibility report in 2021. 

What about GANNI’s materials I hear you asking?

Since last year GANNI has doubled the percentage of responsible pieces in their collection and that’s amazing and from a brand perspective definitely something to be proud of. However, there is a need to also underline that GANNI classifies garments as responsible when only 50% of the materials used is certified recycled or organic. So only half of the materials need to be certified and that is enough to give the garment the responsible tag in the GANNI online shop. Personally, 50% responsible isn’t enough for me to buy a piece. Is it for you? We know it’s a start but the aim needs to be higher to drive change in a sustainable way. Looking at product pages in the online shop a little more closely we noticed that the responsible fabrics like recycled nylon or linen is explained in the product description in great detail whereas the other materials (read: the not responsible materials) are only shortly mentioned. This leaves us with the bitter taste of greenwashing.

Further, GANNI is using virgin leather, which is a material that conflicts with the brand’s CO2 goals. Over 40% of GANNI’s C02 emissions are derived from using leather, which is crazy. The only material that is more polluting in their current collections is silk (another product sourced from animals!). This led to the decision to phase out the use of virgin leather by 2023. Currently, the alternative on the market is faux leather which is often made from Polyurethane (plastic) which is problematic and not the best solution either. GANNI chooses not to use plastic alternatives as a substitute to leather as they have also signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s plastic commitment. Trying out alternatives as well as finding alternatives to leather has proven more difficult than anticipated to GANNI and it is refreshing to actually be able to be part of that process through ganni.lab – it means that as a responsible customer you get to learn which part of becoming more sustainable is especially difficult for GANNI.  

So what do we think about GANNI’s sustainable developments so far?

A lot has to be said about a designer brand such as GANNI moving into the right direction – we applaud them for that. A lot of their processes such as material choices have to be reevaluated and possibly have to change completely in their aim to become the most sustainable version of GANNI. They do seem to put the work into it, the women and men power that is needed for such a change to happen. At the same time they full on market their process as well as progress on the ganni.lab Instagram account. They almost overload the consumer with information about how GANNI is becoming more responsible that it’s easy to say “oh yeah GANNI is doing so well in terms of sustainability!” and not keep in focus all the important elements of sustainability such as material choices, production locations, worker rights, animal welfare and the like. In that way it almost feels like greenwashing at times. Then the brand will talk about the things they didn’t manage to achieve and explain what made them fail and that’s the transparency we want to see as consumers. So would we still buy GANNI pieces after this deep dive? Yes, we would but we wouldn’t blindly buy their responsible range. We would check every item for the exact material composition and where it was manufactured and make an educated decision based on that. We do hope GANNI will continue to innovate and surprise us in the next few years!

Which other brands would you like to see featured here? We have also looked into sustainability goals of new up and coming influencer brand nu-in recently.

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