T.R.A.S.E.™ Mission Statement
In harmony with university ideals, provide a comprehensive, easily understood rating system through which to hold vendors accountable for sustainable initiatives, and to provide transparency, value, and confidence to customers as a means to educate and guide responsible decision-making.
T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System
The T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System was created at the University of Massachusetts, AmherstⓇ as a collaborative effort spearheaded by the UMass Store and involving the UMass Physical Plant Sustainability Office, UMass Sustainability Fellows, the UMass Auxiliary Enterprises Sustainability Office, and UMass Auxiliary Enterprises Sustainability Interns.
See Collaboration section below for more details.
The rating system was created in response to a growing desire for sustainable merchandise in campus stores by students and other customers, and a demand for more accountability from vendors.
Every item listed as “Sustainable” in our store and on our website is given a score out of five using the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System. This is meant to make it easy for customers to determine how sustainable an item is compared to other items in the section.
The purpose of the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System is to provide a widely utilized and understood method to rate sustainable products within campus stores across the United States of America. The TR.A.S.E.™ Rating System is meant to establish a guide with which campus stores can easily supply information on their sustainable offerings, thereby providing more transparency to customers.
Our goal is to weed through the greenwashing to identify sustainable items so customers can shop confidently and responsibly.
The T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System takes into account 5 key aspects when scoring items:
Every category of the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System addresses transparency at its core. The information collected by vendors lends to the overall transparency of the product being sold. The inability of a vendor to provide details for any of the categories addressed in this rating system is equivalent to a lack of transparency, and thus points are docked accordingly.
Vendors - This system asked the vendors to take responsibility for their claims of sustainability, requiring them to provide crucial information for each item flagged as a potential for this system.
Customers - The T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System strives to help customers shop more responsibly by doing the research in advance and providing the findings in a quick and easily understood manner. Each item that qualifies for a T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating is marked with an icon signifying the rating it received on the sales floor and online. On the store’s website, the product description for each item that qualifies for a T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating will have a more detailed overview of how the item rated in each category of the system, thereby explaining the overall rating.
Vendors who participate in the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System are asked to provide detailed information at every stage of the supply chain for all eligible products. T.R.A.S.E.™ looks at all stages and aspects of a product, from the transportation footprint of an item, to chemicals used in decoration and materials, and even the sustainable initiatives undertaken by the vendor. Assessing each vendor to these standards holds them accountable for their claims and provides a clear rating to consumers, void of greenwashing.
Sustainability is considered in each section of the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System as the central focus of each category.
Category I: Waste and Emissions - Takes into account the transportation of items at each stage (planet, profit), how deadstock is disposed of, and how wastewater is treated.
Category II: Materials and Dyes – Assess the material content, dying method and type, and the decoration type for each item.
Category III: Certifications and Initiatives - Considers certifications held by the vendor, whether environmental, social, or holistic, vendor initiatives, and factory initiatives.
Efficiency is addressed in multiple aspects of the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System, including energy efficiency, GHG emissions, cost effectiveness, waste, and more. Aspects of efficiency can be found in all three criteria categories, from the material collection, to the dying process, all the way to the final receipt of the end product.
How It Works
Each item in our Sustainable Section is given a score out of 5 based on the three categories assessed in the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System:
The subcategories in each overarching parent category are assessed based on a number of factors that contribute to an item’s sustainable traits, resulting in a score out of 5.
The parent category is then assigned a rating calculated as an average of its subcategories’ scores.
After all three parent categories receive a rating out of 5, those three values are averaged to determine the item’s overall T.R.A.S.E.™ Score. This value is represented as leaves on a tree, where 1 is the lowest score and 5 is the highest. See Rating Icons section for more details.
Scores are calculated to 2 decimal points, but rounded up or down based at the halfway point (i.e. 2.5 = a score of 3, whereas 2.4 = a score of 2).
Stage 1 and 2 Vendors
Most vendors featured in our Sustainable Section are what we consider Stage 1, where they handle all aspects of the merchandise from material production to end product assembly and decoration.
Stage 2 vendors are those that are not involved in the actual manufacturing of the material and initial assembly or decoration of a product. These are “upcycling” vendors who receive materials already produced that would otherwise be discarded. Due to this feature of their production, they are not held accountable for the initial material origin, wastewater treatment, dyeing method, or dyeing type. The material component of their score is considered “100% upcycled”, as most items are mixed materials.
In other words, Stage 2 vendors are rated on sub-categories that apply to their production specifically, and are not held accountable for any other sub-categories.
After an item’s overall T.R.A.S.E.™ rating out of 5 has been determined (see previous section), the item is then labeled accordingly using a score icon and a T.R.A.S.E.™ Scorecard.
The score icon is the visual representation of how many points (out of 5) the item received in its sustainable rating. These points are represented as leaves on a tree, with 5 being the highest value and 1 being the lowest. This icon is meant to convey the top-level information about an item’s sustainable traits in one simple graphic.
The Item Scorecard is a more detailed explanation of why that item received the rating given based on the criteria assessed in the T.R.A.S.E.™ Rating System. Scorecards are used to provide transparency to customers so they can understand the score in a concise and easy-to-comprehend manner.
Scorecards can be found as a web image on the item’s product page online.
SHOP RESPONSIBLY. SHOP WITH CONFIDENCE.
In the summer of 2022, Courtney Weiand, the Director of Sales, Marketing, and Customer Relations at the UMass Store, identified a need for further commitment to sustainability by providing more transparency to customers. As vendors continued to expand their sustainable product lines, a need for assessment developed to help customers shop with confidence and avoid greenwashing.
Courtney, an Alumnae of the MS Sustainability Science program at UMass Amherst, spearheaded a collaboration with two other campus leaders: Kathy Wicks, Director of Sustainability at UMass Auxiliary Enterprises - Office of Sustainability, and Ezra Small, Sustainability Manager at Physical Plant - Office of Sustainability. The UMass Store worked with these two departments to develop a rating system to score products and allow customers to easily see an item’s sustainable attributes when compared to other options. Based on the initial outline created by Courtney, the foundation of T.R.A.S.E.™ was developed with the help of interns and fellows from the sustainability offices of UMass Auxiliary Enterprises and UMass Physical Plant, as well as a student Sustainability Researcher hired by the UMass Store.
The T.R.A.S.E.™ framework was created to serve independent campus retailers to create transparency and accountability in their sustainable product assortments, thereby demonstrating their commitment to responsible consumerism.
Courtney Weiand - Director of Sales, Marketing, & Customer Relations
Josh Baez Vigo - Merchandise Manager & Planner
Mackenzie Kegans - Marketing & Buying Assistant
Greta Russo - Sustainability Researcher
Auxiliary Enterprises - Office of Sustainability
Kathy Wicks - Director of Sustainability
Ines Magdalena - Sustainability Intern
Physical Plant - Office of Sustainability
Ezra Small - Sustainability Manager
Olivia Capriotti - Sustainability Fellow
Jack Durkin - Sustainability Fellow
Shane Grant - Sustainability Fellow
UMASS and T.R.A.S.E. are trademarks owned by the University of Massachusetts System. Any unauthorized third party use is expressly prohibited.
© 2023 UMass Store All rights reserved.
Special thanks to Graphic Designer Mark Strand Creative, LLC for the design of the brand logos.