Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Ethical Fashion Startup Veraly Seeks to Develop New Niche
A new startup will make it easier than ever to find and purchase ethically produced apparel and accessories. Veraly, an ethical fashion ecommerce site, plans to run beta testing through September leading up to a public launch later this year.
The site will initially offer dozens of verified ethically sourced products, and the founders plan to add more products as the company grows. A team of curators, as well as feedback from the site's users, will determine which products make the cut.
"Ethical fashion" is a fairly ambiguous term, with no consensus definition. One of Veraly's founders, Tabea Kay, acknowledged this ambiguity in an article in GOOD Magazine, where she writes a column. The curators at Veraly will apply the triple-bottom-line criteria as they select products to carry, verifying that the entire production process of a given product is socially ethical, environmentally sustainable, and potentially profitable.
"Our curatorial process can involve anything from walking [suppliers'] factories and/or studio spaces to verifying claims through various independent certification processes," wrote Kay in an e-mail. "If companies are hesitant about disclosing the provenance of their labor or materials, it is usually a good indicator that something is amiss. If they are open about it, we will go further and ideally work together with the brand to highlight their ethical credentials to our customer."
Veraly's founders have chosen the perfect timing for their launch, as long-term steady growth in both ecommerce and ethical consumerism will provide a potentially valuable niche to develop.
Ecommerce sales have grown astronomically since Netscape 1.0 first offered SSL encryption in 1994. In 2011, online retail sales rose to $194 billion in the United States, representing a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Apparel and accessories were crucial drivers of 2011's ecommerce growth, with sales growing faster than any other ecommerce product segment, according to eMarketer.
Meanwhile, data suggest that consumers are increasingly likely to consider ethical issues when making purchasing decisions. In 2011, a record 91 percent of consumers said they'd buy a product associated with a cause, continuing a steady 18-year trend in consumer preferences, according to Cone Communications.
Other research supports these findings. According to the Co-operative Bank UK, the market for ethical consumerism in the United Kingdom grew from £16 billion in 2000 to almost £47 billion in 2010. In 2000, less than 30 percent of consumers said they'd bought a product primarily for ethical reasons. In 2011, that figure had increased to 46 percent.
Veraly will give ten percent of profits to charity. At the outset, the company will donate to mostly recognizable organizations, like the National Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund. For the second version of the platform, however, the company plans to allow users to choose where to donate their money out of a larger pool of non-profits.
To get updates from the Veraly team and previews of the sorts of products the site will offer, sign up at vera.ly.
Photo credit: Kristen Taylor (kthread) on Flickr