Consumers and investors alike want to know the origin of products, and they are driving pressures to reveal more about supply chains and how clothing is sourced and manufactured. This is no small feat. Navigating the origins of a single apparel or accessories product is complex, with a single pair of sneakers touching upwards of 80 unique suppliers. At the Traceability and Transparency panel at the 2019 summer edition of Texworld USA, experts in supply chain accountability from Sourcemap, Athleta, PVH, and the UN discussed how brands can meet the challenges of revealing more, but doing so authentically. Here are some key takeaways:
Build on existing knowledge
“Don’t reinvent the wheel,” said Karen Newman, UN Consultant. “Add value to the wheel. Find out who is doing something in your sector, your industry, Google the heck out of it. Drill down and try to find out what they’re doing. Try to collaborate, try to get information.
If you’re doing something innovative, maybe you figured out how to do something interesting with blockchain, new fabrics, new technology – share it! Share it with big companies. Call for a meeting, meet with as many people as you can. If you’re a young person and you want experience, offer to add your expertise in some way. Provide insight across social media, write a case study, do something you’re interested in within that big company. That’s the way to integrate and get involved in a lot of interesting things that are happening – because they are happening.”
Small steps are better than perfect steps
“Start,” said Louise Claughton, Senior Director of PVH. “Any small step is a step in the right direction. Look for the small wins, we get small wins we gain momentum. It’s also about changing perception – a lot of the stigma around organic, sustainable materials tends to be around the fact they may not be perfect. A lot of customers will look at a recycled fibre as not being as good in terms of performance as a virgin fibre. It’s like re-branding, taking that message forward that we are doing good.”How do you combat the massive amount of green-washing happening in the market and do you think it prevents you from telling your sustainability story effectively?
Don’t fear public scrutiny
“We are very conscious of it at Sourcemap as we have one platforms,” saidJuliette Barre, Director of Business Development and Marketing, SOURCEMAP. “One is super secret around software and other is B2C. Most of our clients are not ready to disclose what they are doing although they are doing an amazing job with discovering, and engaging their suppliers and tracking transactions, but they are so scared to be transparent with their supply chain in case of public backlash. If there is one thing on the day of reviewing a factory for example that isn’t 100% accurate and therefore claimed as inconsistent with their promise.”
Accept that traceability is a work in progress
“As we have all said, the process isn’t perfect,” saidLeslie Ferrick, Senior Manager, Fabric R&D/Sourcing Dept, Athleta. “So I think what we do today might not even be relevant in five years, but we are doing something and we are getting the word out to the consumer. “
The process isn’t perfect, so I think what we do today might not even be relevant in five years, but we are doing something and we are getting the word out to the consumer. “Leslie Ferrick, Athleta
Collaborating can mitigate risks
“Companies are seeing the power of working together,” Karen Newman, UN consultant, “and how they can have good stories when they collaborate – it also kind of mitigates risk too. Some of the leaders of the industry are paving the way for other brands to get involved and they realize they have to before it’s too late.”