In my search for the perfect summer dress which is both cute and sustainable, I stumbled across Nobody’s Child. I had never heard of the brand before, but after seeing their messages about being both sustainable and affordable I was intrigued; most sustainable brands are usually much more expensive than their non-sustainable counterparts, so I wanted to see for myself if this was too good to be true. The Alexa Midi dress is $48, which is relatively good price in the world of sustainable fashion. From the beginning I was impressed by Nobody’s Child’s transparency; they are the first to admit that they are by no means perfect but are doing their best to meet their goals on sustainability and labor standards. After looking into Nobody’s Child’s practices, I think they are doing a great job with their production process, but could do better by sharing more information about their supply chain; I had to go digging for a lot of the information I found. If Nobody’s Child says transparency is extremely important to them, I think they should consider providing more information on some of the areas I highlighted.
The Alexa Midi Dress is made from LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fabric which the store says is a sustainable alternative to traditional viscose. Traditional viscose is used frequently in the fashion industry and is problematic for two main reasons. Firstly, viscose is made from a wood pulp and the extraction of this pulp traditionally leads to deforestation and alters the habitat of already endangered species. Secondly, the process of spinning the pulp into thread releases lots of toxic chemicals which are not only harmful to the environment but also to the people doing these jobs. Nobody’s Child’s says that their sustainable alternative is made from sustainably harvested wood and uses up 50% less water during the manufacturing process. This means that the production of the Alexa Midi Dress is not actively leading to deforestation, but does Nobody’s Child’s sustainable alternative solve the issue of the traditional toxic pollutants? It seems like it does! In Nobody’s Child’s Responsible Brand Commitment they say that the production of their Lenzing fabrics is done in such a way that “all chemical processing from forest to finished materials for products and packaging is carried out with minimal impact to soil, air and water at all processing facilities.”
One thing I like about Nobody’s Child is that they take into account the full life-cycle of their products. Not only do they do their best to use sustainable materials, but they also give their customers advice about how to extend the lifetime of their products and dispose of them after. On their website they give some information about the benefits of doubling the lifetime of a garment and how to reduce the impact of each garment such as washing it less, line drying, and using an eco-friendly wash bag to reduce the microfibers released with each wash. They also link lots of resources for their customers, such as tutorials about how to mend or DIY additions to their products as well as links to places to resell the products once the customer has finished with them. I like that Nobody’s Child takes the time to address the full lifecycle of their products, and I think more retailers should strive to be like this.
Nobody’s Child is also proud to share information about their sustainable packaging. They say that if they could, they would be 100% plastic free, but they need to use some plastic to ensure that their products are not damaged in the warehouse and during delivery. They explain that they’ve opted for a garment bag that is made from recycled plastic and is 100% recyclable and that their mailers are made from recycled polythene and can be fully recycled after use. Nobody’s Child explains that they explored oxo-degradable or biodegradable packaging, but realized that these need very specific conditions to break down, and most of the time the customer doesn’t have access to these conditions. I really appreciate this rationale! A lot of companies use the buzzwords of “biodegradable” or “oxo-degradable” but their products just end up in landfills; I admire Nobody’s Child for actually looking into the full lifecycle of their products and packaging, and not just being content with publishing buzzwords on their website.
I’m giving Nobody’s Child a 3 for this category as I think they are doing lots of really great things and they go above and beyond in taking into consideration the full life cycle of their products. I think that a lot of “sustainable” companies are content with just marketing their “sustainable” fabrics and throwing buzzwords around, but I really think that Nobody’s Child goes the extra mile in ensuring that their products are as sustainable as possible from production to disposal.
Nobody’s Child’s LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fabric is produced by Lenzing, a textile manufacturer. I looked into their production process, and was pleasantly surprised about what I found. Even with a textile that is seemingly great for the environment, the energy needed for production usually drives down the score. However, Lenzing uses a concept called the “biorefinery” where they utilize all parts of the wood that is used to create the fabric. They actually power their factories with bioenergy derived from the rest of the wood that is not used to create the pulp needed for the fabric. They say that they are the “trailblazers of a potentially energy self-sufficient pulp and fiber production.” They also use the different parts of the wood to create other commercial products such as acetic acid and xylose which are used in the food industry. Bioenergy still releases carbon dioxide, but is generally considered more sustainable because it releases the same amount of emissions as the organic matter absorbed during its life-cycle – in other words it’s a net neutral cycle. I think this is great. Not only does the production of the clothes not release excess carbon dioxide, but all parts of the raw materials are used!
The production of the fabric sounds great, but things get a little more confusing when it comes to putting together the garments. Nobody’s Child gives the name of all their factories, but doesn’t give the specific factory for the Alexa Midi Dress. It seems like it could be made in one of five factories, but these span across India, the Republic of Moldova, Morocco, Turkey, and Ukraine. There isn’t specific information about how much energy these factories use and if that energy is sustainable. Additionally, depending on the factory, it would take lots of energy to transport the materials from the forests to the Lenzing factory, to another production facility where the clothes are made, then to a warehouse/shop in London, and finally to the customer. Nobody’s Child says they are leading the way in transparency, but I think they should share more information about which products are produced at which factories and how these factories are powered. Because of this, I’m giving them a 2 in this category. I think bioenergy is extremely innovative, but Nobody’s Child needs to be more transparent about their entire process on their own website and share information about the whole production cycle in order to earn a 3.
I think Nobody’s Child definitely sticks to their goals of transparency when it comes to labor standards. On their website they link to their Responsible Brand Commitment which goes into detail about their labor standards and how they enforce them. They say that they require all their labor standards to meet with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and that this applies to all different types of employment within the company. Nobody’s Child also states that all of their manufacturers must meet one of these third party certifications: Sedex SMETA audit report, BSCI-Amfori audit report , SA8000 Certification, Fairtrade Textile Production Mark; these are all widely used and reputable certifications. They also say that when deciding on collaborations they give preference to companies that are either part of the Ethical Trading Initiative or the Fair Wear Foundation; the Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of companies committed to respecting workers rights and the Fair Wear Foundation focus on labor rights within garment production. Nobody’s Child also shares that third-party audit companies review their practices, and that they put action plans into motion to address any of the issues brought up.
Of course, the information that the company puts out about their labor practices must be taken with a grain of salt. However, with the reputable certifications they’ve earned, I think Nobody’s Child does go above and beyond in this category. I think they could do better by mentioning diversity and gender equality within their workforce, which is really important to consumers when forming an opinion about a company. I’m awarding Nobody’s Child a 2.5 for this category for these reasons.