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The Nisolo Sustainability Framework

To understand our framework and why we’re so passionate about sustainability at Nisolo, you have to understand what’s wrong with the industry we’re in. Here’s the quick reality: the current state of the multi-trillion dollar fashion industry and its impact on people and the planet is one of the most significant problems the world faces today.

The Problem

From a people perspective, here’s a snapshot: 93% of fashion brands are NOT paying factory workers a living wage that covers basic needs (food, water, shelter, healthcare, etc.). Experts estimate that less than 5% of people making clothing around the world receive a living wage, meaning 95% of producers in the fashion industry are being held in systemic poverty. And, 75% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 24.

From a planet perspective, here’s another snapshot: Creating nearly 10% of the world’s carbon footprint, the fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to climate change, emitting more emissions than the international aviation and shipping industries combined. Not only is fashion one of the top 5 most polluting industries due to dirty, unregulated manufacturing, but 85% of the clothes we wear end up in landfills even though 95% could be reused or recycled.

To help visualize this tragic reality, watch this 2 min trailer for The True Cost, a film by our friend Andrew Morgan that we were honored to play a small part in helping bring to life:

As you can see, these issues not only affect the planet and the more than 100,000,000 people working in the supply chain of the fashion industry but their children and everyone else in the world as well. We as consumers (making up half of the equation within this problem) are largely unaware that our purchases are supporting a very broken industry. And, this is because today, transparency is little more than a buzz word and accountability is largely non-existent. We haven’t been equipped with the resources we need to build an ethical fashion ecosystem that uplifts people AND the planet.

Despite recent momentum of the sustainability movement, this age-old problem continues to accelerate faster than it improves, just as the global pandemic most recently revealed. When it comes to people, the planet, transparency, and accountability in the fashion industry, we as a society can and MUST do better, starting now.

Our Vision for The Fashion Industry

Rather than the fashion industry continuing on the same destructive path it’s been on, we believe it can be one of the world’s most powerful conduits for social and environmental progress. We envision the fashion industry reversing its negative impact on climate change and becoming one of the most effective tools to help eradicate poverty within our lifetime. To make this a reality:

Our vision is to convince the fashion industry to value our planet and the people who make the clothes and shoes we wear just as much as the industry values the dollars of end consumers.

How do we accomplish this?

First off, the disposable model of fast fashion must end. We as a society must choose to consume and manufacture far less than we do now. And when we do consume, it must be from reputable brands who uphold people within supply chains and the planet as core stakeholders in decision making, and who design high quality, durable products that will last years to come.

Secondly, following over a decade of active participation in both the manufacturing and brand/selling side of fashion comprising hundreds of years of collective fashion acumen amongst our team and advisors, we’ve concluded that accomplishing this vision boils down to five core components, which we refer to as The Minimum Standard for fashion brands to embrace:

  1. 100% Living Wages for People: Actively pursue 100% Living Wages that cover the basic needs of People within supply chains.
  2. 0% Net Carbon for Planet: Actively pursue 0% Net Carbon through the reduction and offsetting of all carbon emissions.
  3. Elevate transparency by tracking and publicly sharing core metrics tied to the treatment of People & Planet.
  4. Elevate accountability by validating practices through reputable 3rd Party Certification, and when unavailable, self-evaluating and publishing progress.
  5. Ecosystem Building: Advocate for a more equitable fashion industry by supporting changemakers and legislation that protects and amplifies the rights of People and the Planet.

People, Planet, Transparency, Accountability, and Ecosystem Building are the backbone of our framework for sustainability, and when these minimum standards are adopted by all brands, we will change the course of the fashion industry forever.

The Nisolo Sustainability Framework

We named our brand Nisolo (loosely meaning “not alone” in Spanish) knowing that no one could change the industry on their own. True change requires the participation of all stakeholders including but not limited to suppliers, garment workers, manufacturers, governments, NGOs, financial institutions, fashion brands, and you, the end consumer.

The problems the industry faces are complex, but we believe the solution can be broken down into the five pillars of People, Planet, Transparency, Accountability, and Ecosystem Building. And, while there are many ways to improve each area, we also believe there is one core “North Star” component to each area. In this post, we lay out our sustainability framework by unpacking how we operate within each of them.

1.) People

We envision the fashion industry becoming a vehicle for eradicating poverty for hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people, and inspiring other industries to pull their stakeholders out of poverty. Making this a reality starts by proving it can be done within our supply chain. We create and cultivate work environments where people can thrive by focusing on five primary areas, which all of our 1st tier factories have committed to through signing our Supplier Code of Conduct: Payment & Wages, Health & Safety, Governance & Workers’ Rights, Gender Equality & Empowerment, and Healthcare & Benefits.

  • Payment & Wages
    • In an industry where 95%+ of workers do not receive a living wage sufficient to pay for housing, food, and other basic needs, we pay 100% living wages to every producer in our 1st Tier factories. Providing a living wage is the foundation for creating a healthy work environment. It establishes an ethos of social responsibility, and influences other decisions that uplift workers. In our decade of experience, we always find that factories that pay a living wage are also best in class across the other criteria we assess.
    • No wage is more telling than the lowest wage. By measuring and ensuring our suppliers’ lowest wages are living wages, we can be certain that every producer who makes our products receives a wage that meets their basic needs. Since the cost of living is always changing, we frequently measure the living wage in the countries we operate in–Peru, Mexico, Kenya, and the United States. We’ve increased our lowest wages to meet the new living wage on three separate occasions since 2019.
    • In the future, we plan to measure the wages of the deeper tiers of our supply chain because we’re committed to paying a living wage to everyone who handles our products, not just the people who work in our 1st tier factories. We will also create a plan for paying a family living wage sufficient to cover the cost of living for two working adults and two dependents. We’re well ahead of the industry already by providing an individual living wage–93% of brands don’t even do that–but we believe in a future where every worker receives a wage that meets their families’ needs.
  • Health & Safety
    • Access to a healthy and safe workplace is a basic human right, but despite the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 that killed 1,134 garment workers, fashion continues to be a deadly business with insufficient regulation for health and safety.
      All of our factories provide healthy and safe working environments where workers are provided with occupational and emergency training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and access to clean water and facilities.
    • Every factory has an established system with senior management responsible for monitoring and improving health and safety, in addition to a health and safety committee composed of workers and management that meets regularly. Frequent audits from state departments (equivalent to OSHA) are also carried out to ensure all health and safety practices are up to code and in place.
  • Governance & Workers’ Rights
    • The fashion industry is flooded with human rights abuses including cross-cutting issues such as child and forced labor, long working hours, repression of freedom of association & bargaining, lack of job security, discrimination and violence, and little to no access to justice for those whose basic rights are violated at work. We champion work environments that uplift workers and their families.
    • We have NO child or forced labor in our supply chain. All of our factories’ working hours are in compliance with the law and International Labour Organization. Every factory allows and supports workers’ freedom of association & bargaining, has systems established to eliminate and prevent discrimination, harassment, and abuse, and openly discloses rights to workers.
    • 75% of our factories actively train workers so that they can move into higher paying roles.
  • Gender Equality & Empowerment
    • 80% of the fashion’s industry’s 75 Million workers are women between the ages of 18 and 24. Less than 5% receive a living wage and many are vulnerable to sexual harassment and gender-based violence–one in every two women workers in garment factories in Southeast Asia has experienced sexual harassment, according to on-the-ground reports from CARE International (2019). We believe it’s possible to pull women and their dependents out of poverty by providing a living wage and a healthy and safe work environment.
    • All of our factories have a system in place to eradicate and prevent gender-based harassment, discrimination, and abuse. Health and safety precautions are taken for all women in the workplace, especially for those who are pregnant or nursing. Women and men are paid equally and given the same opportunities for promotions, and all of our factories’ leadership teams have women represented.
    • Our suppliers actively employ and empower women–in a leather industry that primarily employs men, our partners provide job opportunities for women and train them to work in positions that are traditionally held by men. Most of our factories offer free health clinics to women and some provide a monthly stipend to all women with dependents.
  • Healthcare & Benefits
    • In an industry where most brands “race to the bottom” by manufacturing in countries that require little to nothing when it comes to living wages and benefits, we guarantee healthcare and benefits so that everyone in our supply chain has the resources they need to thrive.
    • All of our factories provide healthcare, paid time off, social security (or equivalent) contributions, and financial bonuses.
    • Most of our factories offer professional development training, opportunities for continued education, physical and mental health programming, and financial literacy resources.
      • 75% of our factories provide opportunities for continued education by hosting in-factory classes to help employees complete their secondary education and partnering with universities to provide discounts for those who want to pursue a college degree.
      • Physical and mental health benefits are also provided at the majority of our factories. Some of our suppliers offer medical health training and clinics, and even employ a doctor who works onsite. 50% of our suppliers offer training on topics ranging from nutrition and physical fitness to soft skills like stress management and how to practice healthy relationships.
      • Half of our factories provide financial literacy training on how to budget and save, in addition to facilitating in-factory savings groups. 25% of our suppliers provide salary advances for family emergencies or other special circumstances, and have created a relief fund to support employees and family members in the wake of natural disasters and COVID-19.

In summary, we leverage our business to provide opportunities for the people in our supply chain to thrive by providing living wages and benefits, in addition to healthy, safe, and equitable work environments that help them achieve their aspirations for themselves and their families.

To learn more about our holistic approach to People, please reference our Racial Justice Plan of Action post as well as our Behind The Scenes of Our Operations post, where we dive much deeper on specifics within our supply chain.

2.) Planet

We envision the fashion industry regenerating the natural environment instead of depleting it. We believe Fashion can reverse its impact on climate change, and inspire other industries to do their part in saving the planet. In contrast to fast fashion’s “take, make, dispose” model, we believe in a “circular fashion” approach that takes environmental impact into account at all stages ranging from initial design, to the sourcing of materials, to manufacturing, to logistics to the final customer, to the end lifecycle of products post consumer use, and all steps in between. We embrace a circular fashion system by focusing on the following five areas.

  • Carbon Footprint
    • Creating nearly 10% of the world’s carbon footprint annually and on pace to account for 26% by 2050, the fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to climate change, emitting more emissions than the international aviation and shipping industries combined. Everything we make has an impact on the planet, which is why we measure, reduce, and offset 100% of our carbon footprint.
    • Since 2018, we have offset the carbon emissions of everything we have produced by partnering with Ecosphere+ to invest in forest conservation in the Cordillera Azul of the Peruvian Amazon. Our program focuses on keeping the threatened forests of the Amazon alive and protected while creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for its indigenous communities. Today, we are a Climate Neutral Certified brand, which means our carbon footprint is verified annually by a 3rd party, and we offset 100% of our emissions through verified conservation work. We recently began measuring our emissions at the product level through Doconomy’s 2030 Calculator so that we can scale our reduction efforts.
  • Raw Materials Integrity & Durability
    • As much as 90% of a product’s environmental impact is determined during the design stage, which is why we design and manufacture with raw materials that are timeless, durable, and easy on the environment to care for. 100% of our leather is a by-product of the meat industry–we divert hides from immediately ending up in landfills by responsibly converting them into shoes and accessories. While we’ve been able to accomplish full visibility of the 1st and 2nd tiers of our supply chain, we are committed to tracing all of our leathers back to the farm level so that we can fully address animal welfare and environmental impact at the deepest level of our operations. Learn more about our holistic approach to leather here.
  • Processing & Manufacturing
    • The fashion industry relies heavily on natural resources and hazardous chemicals to manufacture our clothes and shoes. We personally visit and vet all of our 1st and 2nd tier suppliers to ensure they have systems in place to monitor and improve chemical management, water use and wastewater treatment, energy consumption, and waste generation and recycling.
    • We are a Leather Working Group member and 95% of our leathers are Leather Working Group Certified, which means they have been evaluated and certified for best practices against the following criteria: material traceability, environmental management system, restricted substances, energy consumption, water usage, air and noise emissions, waste management, effluent treatment, health, safety, and emergency preparedness, chemical management, and operations management. 100% of our leathers will be LWG Certified in the near future.
    • Some of our suppliers rely on solar panels to power a significant portion of their operations, and other factory partners are beginning to adopt renewable energy as well.
  • Packaging & Distribution
    • Packaging for our clothes and shoes is typically composed of single-use plastics and materials that immediately wind up in landfills, and shipping emissions contribute significantly to Fashion’s carbon footprint. We measure and offset 100% of our upstream (factory to distribution center) and downstream (distribution center to customer) shipping, and have achieved reductions in shipping emissions by relying more heavily on ocean shipments vs. air. The majority of our packaging is made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable, and we are in the process of overhauling our packaging to make it even more environmentally responsible.
  • Post Use Product Lifecycle
    • 85% of the clothes we wear end up in landfills even though 95% could be reused or recycled; wearing a garment twice as long would lower greenhouse gas emissions from clothing by 44%. We extend the life of our products by manufacturing them with durable raw materials and providing our customers with resources (shoe care kits, videos on how to care for your shoes, etc.) to keep them in use longer. To divert our products from landfills at the end of their life, we incentivize our customers to return them through our takeback program with Soles4Souls. To date, we’ve collected and diverted over 7,000 pairs of used shoes from landfills.

To learn more about our holistic approach to Planet, see our Behind The Scenes of Our Operations post, where we dive much deeper on specifics within our supply chain.

In summary, we recognize that everything we make has an impact on the planet, and we address these impacts through a circular approach. A single “green initiative” does not solve the environmental problems brands create. Put simply, we must embrace holistic practices and be clear about our impacts with all of our stakeholders, which brings us into the 3rd pillar of our sustainability framework—Transparency.

3.) Transparency

In an industry that’s infamous for hiding its impacts on People and the Planet, we commit to unprecedented transparency. For us, it’s about progress over perfection. The fashion industry is full of social and environmental injustices because customers have been left out of knowing about the issues. That’s why we seek to establish a level of unprecedented transparency across all of our practices.

You can only improve what you measure. Since 2014, we’ve been measuring our social impact across our supply chain in order to create an environment where our producers and their dependents thrive. We track lowest wages and living wages throughout our entire supply chain, and we share them publicly. We measure, reduce, and offset 100% of our carbon emissions, and we share them publicly as well.

While we have pursued unprecedented transparency for years at Nisolo, on December 8th, 2021, we are launching the most radical transparency initiative we’ve ever seen from any brand.

Mark your calendars and stay tuned. We’ll need your help ensuring the initiative is leveraged to change the trajectory of the fashion industry at large.

To learn more about our transparency, please reference our Behind The Scenes of Our Operations post, where we dive much deeper on transparent specifics within our business and supply chain.

In summary, we embrace a level of unprecedented transparency in order to mobilize customers to shift the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction. While transparency is critical, it holds far more weight when what’s shared is 3rd party verified, which leads us into the 4th pillar of our sustainability framework—Accountability.

4.) Accountability

As sustainability becomes more and more “on trend” and brands continue to leverage eco-friendly language to increase sales without the practices to back it up, external, third party accountability and verification have become non-negotiable. “Sustainable” and “ethical” in the fashion industry have become as ambiguous as “organic” in the food and beverage industry, putting TRUST between brands and consumers at risk like never before.

This is why we believe the greatest threat to long-term social and environmental progress today is “greenwashing,” which essentially means spending more time, effort, and money on appearing to be socially and environmentally responsible rather than investing in ways to actually be more responsible. Greenwashing is a big problem in the fashion industry: 40% of 500 fashion brands recently surveyed by the Competition and Markets Authority claimed to be "eco-friendly,” but had no data to substantiate their claims.

With all the misinformation out there, the best way to determine which brands are doing right by people and the planet is to look for third party verification and certifications. We seek 3rd party certification across all of our practices, and self assess and publicly publish our metrics when 3rd party certifications are not an option.

Nisolo is a Top-Rated Certified B Corporation.
B Corp Certification is the most rigorous and holistic 3rd party verification in existence today. Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Focusing on using business as a force for good, B Corps embrace a new way of doing business that envisions a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative planet and economy. Whereas the median score for the B Impact Assessment among 50,000+ past applicants is a 50.9, an 80 is a passing score, and the average for Certified B Corporations is a 93.8, we most recently scored a 115.4! While the vast majority of fashion brands would never be able to become B Corp Certified because of their poor social and environmental practices, there are around 120 brands who have achieved this feat. The 115.4 Nisolo received for our social, environmental, and governance practices ranks higher than 93% of fashion brands that have become Certified B Corps, placing us at #1 among leather good brands and #3 among footwear brands.

As a Certified B Corporation, our executive team is required to evaluate each decisions’ impact on people and the planet. To ensure accountability, we’ve written this into Nisolo’s legal operating agreement and by-laws, which our executive team is required to comply with in order to remain in good, compensated standing with the company.

To read more about our 3rd Party B Corporation Certification, visit here.

Nisolo is a Climate Neutral Certified brand.
Climate Neutral ensures that we are accurately measuring and offsetting our entire carbon footprint by requiring us to measure our emissions on their software tool, the Brand Emissions Estimator (BEE), a comprehensive platform built in partnership with climate experts from well respected organizations–Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CIRAIG, among others, operating in the carbon emissions accounting and lifecycle analysis fields. 100% of our carbon offsets are made through a REDD+ conservation project in the Peruvian Amazon.

To read more about our 3rd Party Climate NeutralCertification, visit here.


Nisolo is a Leather Working Group Member.
We are a Leather Working Group (LWG) member and 95% of leather uppers derive from tanneries that are LWG Certified.When it comes to leather tanning, we rely on 3rd party certification from LWG to ensure our suppliers are responsibly processing the hides we use for our products. LWG assesses material traceability, environmental management system, restricted substances, energy consumption, water usage, air and noise emissions, waste management, effluent treatment, health, safety, and emergency preparedness, chemical management, and operations management, among other topics.

To read more about Leather Working Group Certification, visit here.

5.) Ecosystem Building

Fashion has traditionally been a cutthroat industry infamous for tearing other brands down. The issues we face–climate change and extreme poverty–are too great for one brand to address in a silo; collaboration is essential. That’s why we’re building an equitable fashion ecosystem through supporting changemakers and legislation that protects and amplifies the rights of People and the Planet. This has come in many different forms for Nisolo, but here are a few highlights we’ve pursued along the way:

  • Nisolo is a member of Climate Neutral’s Brand Advisory Group with representatives from Allbirds, REI, Reformation, Cotopaxi, Mate the Label, Avocado Mattress, Peak Designs, Blueland, and Klean Kanteen. The purpose of this group is to support Climate Neutral to engage with key brand stakeholders to better understand their brands’ operations and climate strategies so that they can build a certification experience that empowers companies to decarbonize more rapidly.
  • We champion legislation that protects garment workers and the planet. We were one of a handful of brands that advocated for the passage of California State Bill 62, which put an end to harmful piece rate wages in order to ensure that every worker receives minimum wage.
  • Our Sustainability Lead is an ambassador for Remake, a community of fashion lovers, womens’ rights advocates, and environmentalists on a mission to change the industry’s harmful practices on people and our planet.
  • Nisolo is a member of Soles4Souls’ Sustainability Council. The purpose of this group is to scale socially and environmentally responsible product reclamation efforts across the footwear industry.
  • We support changemakers in our industry, actively supporting and participating in podcasts like The Root Podcast and supporting students and outside organizations conducting research to put together findings and recommendations for making the industry more sustainable.
  • Nisolo founded The Lowest Wage Challenge in collaboration with ABLE, a close competitor, to challenge brands to pay their workers a living wage.
  • We worked with DE&I experts to develop a robust framework and open-sourced our methodology for other brands to leverage within our Racial Justice Plan of Action.
  • We collaborated with other brands in the industry to establish our Ethical Marketplace, where we handpick exceptional products from like-minded brands who have all signed the Nisolo Code of Conduct.

While we have pursued Ecosystem Building for years at Nisolo, on December 8th, 2021, we are launching the most radical initiative we’ve ever seen from any brand. We are publicly sourcing all of our research and methodology in order to accelerate the sustainability movement.

So, mark your calendars and stay tuned. We’ll need your help to ensure the initiative is leveraged in a way that will change the trajectory of the fashion industry at large.

Summary & Call to Action

In summary, let’s recap the 5 core pillars of our Sustainability Framework: People, Planet, Transparency, Accountability, and Ecosystem Building. We believe these are the fundamental components of a changed fashion industry. The simplest, actionable items we pursue and we hope other brands and manufacturers will pursue to actualize the industry we all hope to see include:

  1. 100% Living Wages for People: Actively pursue 100% Living Wages that cover the basic needs of People within supply chains.
  2. 0% Net Carbon for Planet: Actively pursue 0% Net Carbon through the reduction and offsetting of all carbon emissions.
  3. Elevate transparency by tracking and publicly sharing core metrics tied to the treatment of People & Planet.
  4. Elevate accountability by validating practices through reputable 3rd Party Certification, and when unavailable, self-evaluating and publishing progress.
  5. Ecosystem Building: Advocate for a more equitable fashion industry by supporting changemakers and legislation that protects and amplifies the rights of People and the Planet.

We believe that all of these can AND must be acted on simultaneously to move the fashion industry forward, and we’re already seeing the positive impacts of adopting this framework within our own business.

We encourage you to challenge other brands to embrace these standards. The fashion industry has the potential to significantly reduce global poverty and reverse its impact on climate change within our lifetime. Adopting these pillars as an industry will accelerate progress like we’ve never seen before.

We Want To Hear From You

Nisolo means “not alone.” It’s a tribute to the importance of relationships and our interconnectedness with one another and the planet. We welcome all stakeholders to learn about our business and its impact, so that we can work in collaboration to shift the industry in a more sustainable direction.

If there is an area of our business you have additional questions about as it relates to social and environmental responsibility, we want to make ourselves available to you. We know we have a long way to go, and we’d love to hear from you what you think we can be doing to further improve. We’d also love to hear what you think we’re doing well, as it’s tough work to compete with companies in our industry who intentionally cut corners on a regular basis.

Put simply, all news from you is good news to us, and we’d love to hear your feedback. If you’d like to contact us relating to our sustainability practices, please reach out directly to our Sustainability Lead, Matt Stockamp, at matt@nisolo.com.

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