Customers and investors are looking for answers: they want brands to provide data about where products come from, how they are made, and other key sustainability facts. It sounds simple, but supply chains can be complex in the age of international trade and a single item can be made of materials from hundreds of suppliers.
This week Sourcemap was at Texworld USA to meet and discuss with textile brands and manufacturers. Our Director of Business Development and Marketing, Juliette Barre participated in the panel: Transparency and Traceability, Challenges Facing Major Brands. Juliette joined moderator Maggie Kervick (GCNYC Director of Strategy & Integrated Partnerships) with panelists Karen Newman (United Nations Consultant), Leslie Ferrick (Senior Manager of Fabric R&D/Sourcing Dept., Athleta), and Louise Claughton (Senior Director, PVH Corp.).
Some key takeaways from the panel:
Understanding your supply chain from end-to-end benefits a brand’s bottom line:
Companies can better anticipate and adapt to disruptions when they know who is in their supply chain
Marketing departments can use transparency to back up commitments and avoid greenwashing
Suppliers are partners; understanding where they are and opening dialogue around transparency strengthens business relationships
Investor increasingly care about the supply chains of their portfolio companies - after all, it’s their supply chain too
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel: use open-source resources to gather information on what other industry peers or goal-oriented groups are doing to tackle a specific objective. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals act as a framework, detailing what issues and targets can be achieved in specific areas.
If your brand isn’t doing anything about transparency, get started:
Don’t be afraid to communicate the good things your company is doing - if you don’t share, you won’t get the credit
Be transparent about where you need to improve. No one expects companies to be perfect. Acknowledging gaps and communicating on your action plan will help avoid backlash from third-party organizations.
The discussion highlighted many ways in which sustainability and traceability can drive operating efficiency. By exploring the supply chain and problems/opportunities within, business functions can be more efficiently used to tackle important issues. But all of the panelists agreed that the journey to sustainability is not linear or clear-cut, it is full of trial, error, reflection, and action.