The environmental impact of fashion
If we are to understand the importance of transparency in the fashion supply chain, we must first talk about the industry's environmental impact. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industry in the world. And the supply chain is a significant part of that pollution.
From farming through to fibre production, textile manufacturing, garment construction, and then shipping to retailers, every stage of the fashion supply chain contributes towards greenhouse gas production, resource consumption, air, water and land pollution.
The problem with the fashion supply chain is that brands often relocate production to developing countries that do not adopt strict environmental protection policies as in Europe. Furthermore, the distance makes it difficult to control the activities of suppliers.
What is supply chain transparency?
In today's world, consumers are becoming increasingly interested in how their clothes are made and where they come from. This is why fashion's supply chain transparency is more important than ever.
The concept of supply chain transparency was virtually unheard of 15 years ago but as sustainable fashion becomes ever more important, it's a term we're hearing more often. Companies are under pressure from governments, consumers, NGO’s, and other stake holders to divulge more information about their supply chains.
The long-standing trend for cheap fast fashion has had a knock on effect along the entire supply chain. It squeezes everyone from the retailer with high rental prices, to manufacturer making the clothes to the farmer growing the raw materials.
The pressure to continually offer cheaper prices has, over the years, wiped out textile manufacturing in the developed world and pushed it towards the developing world where labor is cheaper standards compromised. This has created a very complex global supply chain.
Why is supply chain transparency so important?
Quite simply, fashion supply chain transparency favours a more sustainable and socially responsible industry. Here are some reasons why it makes sense:
- it allows fashion brands to have better control over an often long and complex supply chain;
- if suppliers do not respect company standards, the fashion brand can choose to use a different supplier. This incentivises suppliers to improve their environmental and social impact;
- traceability and brand transparency give fashion brands the opportunity to give ethically-aware consumers the information they seek;
- the sharing of information on products and production also educates consumers on the environmental and social impact of the garments they are purchasing, encouraging them towards a more conscious lifestyle
Global Trading Standards
To help improve the social compliance and trading standards organizations have arisen to give a global agreed standard for companies to strive towards. Examples relevant to textiles include:
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
World leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibre. It defines high- level environmental criteria along the entire organics supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria too.
Tests products for harmful substances to humans and the environment. It stands for high product safety.
- Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)
Is an alliance of companies, trade unions, and NGO’s that promote respect for workers rights around the globe.
- Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI)
This monitors workplace standards for suppliers across 11 fundamental principles. It is based on the labor standards of the international labor organization, UN charter of human rights and other key international and national regulations in the human rights sphere.
These organizations not only help retailers to make better choices when engaging in suppliers across the globe, it also helps manufacturers and farmers who are in developing countries have a guide and standard to achieve.
Times are changing
Raising the standard does come at a cost though and consumers need to be prepared to start paying for the true costs of their clothes.
Research indicates that consumers now are better informed. They care more about where their clothes are made and about sustainable fashion. They are willing to pay more for garments from companies that have made improvements to their supply chain and gained certifications and passed audits to ensure standards are not only improved but maintained.
This is great news.
How You Can Help
You can help by using the power of currency. Purchase your clothing and give your money to companies that have gained these certifications. You can check on the swing ticket for any of certifications mentioned above or on their websites. You will find a lot of well known retailers already have made huge improvements and hold a lot of these certifications already. This is good news and means progress is being made.
At Gen Woo our clothes are made from our own family run factories that holds certifications with GOTS, Oeko Tex 100, ETI, and the BSCI. We are very proud our long-standing high standards and we hope we have inspired you to make better informed purchases no matter who the retailor is.
Thank you for reading.