The R29 Transparency Awards: 10 Brands Truly Worth Gifting

It's the home stretch of the biggest shopping season of the year, and you're looking for presents that are useful, gorgeous, and sure to elicit a spontaneous happy dance from the receiver. That's not all; you want a gift with a story you can feel good about, where the stuff that went into it is as good as what came out. For our first annual Transparency Awards, we’ve acknowledged 10 brands that are doing a damn fine job of delivering just that.
You want to feel good about every aspect of the production cycle. A full three-fourths of Americans are looking for more information about whether or not buying certain products will affect the environment. They want honest information about how a product made it to the shelf (or website), and about the people behind it. There’s a reason “artisanal” is such a buzzword: You want stuff that is handmade, homemade, or just thoughtfully made by skilled craftspeople because it helps to give an object meaning.
In fact, Americans are more concerned than ever with the impact of the goods they purchase, especially millennials, the age group most committed to supporting companies that care. Overall, an impressive 55% of shoppers are willing to “pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact,” according to a June 2014 Nielsen study of 30,000 shoppers polled across 60 countries. (A surprising 89% of Americans think about where their food is produced, according to an April 2014 survey by Cone Communications.)
So, which companies are being completely and totally transparent with us? We've highlighted about a dozen, ahead. To be sure, these companies are not perfect, but they own that — acknowledging where they fall short and working to improve. Us, too: Our list is by no means exhaustive; we surveyed hundreds of companies in order to find the standouts that are committed to doing good while looking good.
Here's how we did it:
We looked at five areas to decide if a brand was being transparent about its business practices.

1. Does it practice transparency in aid of a higher cause?
The company focuses on transparency because it wants to make a product that is manufactured, transported, sold, and marketed in an honest way that is beneficial to one or all of these: the environment, the consumer, the employee, the community.

2. Does it share information with its employees?
The company is excited to openly share its mission and manufacturing processes with employees at every level.

3. Does it share information with the public?
Information about the company's mission and policies is readily available to the public.

4. Do its transparency practices have an impact on the industry?
The company leads by example, using transparency policies to encourage like-minded brands and competitors to increase overall compliance and improve industry standards

5. Does it continually improve and refine its transparency practices?
The company is willing to disclose areas within the operation where there is room for improvement, and to work toward improving them.
One more thing: We focused on small business, most of which make their own products. Multi-brand retailers are in the business of wholesaling, which means that they sell other people’s products and take a cut of the profits. While it’s possible to run a transparent multi-brand retailer, it’s much, much harder to keep track of the production and manufacturing processes of what sometimes amounts to hundreds of different companies. We didn’t count those folks out, but it’s a big reason you won’t see any of them on the main list.

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