After H&M launched its ‘conscious collection’ of ‘sustainable’ clothing – which was later referred to as greenwashing – students at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art had an idea: what if when you shop for clothes online, all unsustainable businesses were automatically blocked? They created a web plugin to do just that.
Their AI-powered plugin called shADe blocks digital marketing from companies with low sustainability scores and instead suggests items from brands that have the data to back up their environmental claims.
“We hope that the fast fashion brands will recognize that if we can make consumers very aware of their digital marketing strategy and it really works [consumers] far from them, they will have to change what they are doing, ”says Fatimah El-Rashid, one of the founders of shADe. The plugin is the student category winner of Fast Companyof World Changing Ideas Award 2021.
After this deceptive marketing from H&M, El-Rashid says, “We thought, ‘This is an opportunity for us to be able to design something that enables consumers themselves to make responsible choices.” To get a brand’s sustainability scores, shADe works with Good On You, which collects 500 data points from fashion brands in three main categories: people, which includes issues such as living wages and worker safety. workers; planet, which covers sustainability practices from resource use to microfiber pollution; and animals, which includes a brand’s animal welfare policies.
When shopping in a marketplace like ASOS, when you scroll through clothes of different brands, shADe blocks items that get low Good On You ratings. Orange and red faces with x’s over the eyes accompany bad choices; yellow smiley faces appear next to top performing products. The plugin also allows buyers to click through and get more information about what a brand review means.
The team expects a beta to be available soon and hope that shADe can raise awareness of unsustainable fast fashion practices and make brands understand that people care about their environmental impact. “All we’re doing is providing them with a tool that makes it easier for them to choose,” says El-Rashid, “and I think that because of that, companies will have to take more responsibility.”