How Fashion Politics is Transforming the Circular Supply Chain

Let’s talk fashion politics. With transparency trending as one of the words shaping the future of fashion, there has been an increase in brands embracing supply chain transparency. Using data to develop eco and socially conscious supply chains,  future-forward brands are not only looking to establish trust with the more mindful shopper, but are also adopting a more ethical approach to take control of their supply chain to tackle issues like sustainability.


How Brands Are Transforming Supply Chains


With supply chain traceability starting to empower brands to embrace openness,  sourcing management tools are beginning to become instrumental when it comes to brands gaining (back) consumer trust. Adoption of supply chain transparency is becoming more accessible thanks to companies like Suuchi Inc. Utilizing an eco-friendly process, Suuchi uses a vertically integrated supply chain, that allows for every stage of production to be done in-house. The main advantage being that Suuchi is able to offer the quickest turnaround time at the highest quality.


Another company making adoption easier is Sourcemap. They use data-mapping technology to provide a software platform that helps fashion brands take inventory of their environmental and human impact. The software platform also enables brands to account for more “hard-to-measure social risks,” including factory-safety regulations and providing workers with livable wages.


As pressure on big brands to clean up their supply chains increases, we are starting to witness various fashion companies adopting trend-driven approaches that allow them to take significant steps to tackle sustainability and improve industry practices. One of those brands is Wrangler.  With supply chain management at its core, the apparel company has been reported to be focusing its efforts on a circular supply chain, with its sights on a cradle to cradle supply chain.


Championing issues that go beyond their brand, Wrangler, an active member of the Better Cotton Initiative, started a sustainable cotton coalition in 2017 to help the apparel industry shift towards a sustainable alternative. By investing in finding new sustainable innovations Wrangler hopes to advance industry practices, reduce its impact, and strengthen its supply chain. They expect that through supply chain innovation, they will be able to reduce the effect of its primary materials by 2025.


Another company concentrating on circularity, transparency and supply chain efficiencies is Dyecoo. Partnering up with companies like Nike and IKEA, their innovation, which was awarded at the Circular Economy awards,  is introducing technology that uses reclaimed CO₂ as the dyeing medium in a closed loop process. It is a process of dyeing that uses no water at all, and no chemicals other than the dyes themselves.


Then there is a California-based company Patagonia. They are famously known for applying a circular economy and being open when it comes to transparency of their supply chain. The good news is that the environmentally conscious company is not alone in leading the change towards a more sustainable fashion and design industry; there is also North Face. They have been investing in circular economy with their Renewed Program designed to reduce waste by remaking refurbished clothing. With sustainability in their DNA, North Face has become the logical choice for consumers who enjoy “outdoor” sports.


The Future Is All About The Connected Supply Chain


It comes as no surprise that technology is one of the tools being used to drive transparency within the fashion industry.  Blockchain and IoT are two advancing technologies that have been creating opportunities for an end-to-end connected and transparent fashion supply chain.


The connected supply chain makes it possible to access information across the entire value chain. It can also generate vast digital information, where analytics can be used to establish circular insights that enable more predictive ways of working. One of the technologies playing a more central role is the use of RFID tags. They are allowing brands to have access to instant traceability, improved inventory management and automated recycling.


Taking a closer look at the sustainable impact of the connected supply chain is that it can enable more efficient recycling by, for example, separating cotton clothes from polyester ones. It will improve logistics, inventory management and planning of collections contributing to less waste, obsolete items and greenhouse gas emissions. Enabling transparency and instant tracking, the connected supply chain gives brands, and consumers access to information about under which conditions a particular piece of clothing was manufactured, enabling more well-informed purchase decisions.


Like any technology, there are challenges to overcome like privacy and safety, but in the end, what it comes down to is finding the right balance that allows both brands and consumers to establish digital trust throughout the connected supply chain.


Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde


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