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How The Fashion Industry Is Enabling the Systematic Reshaping Of The Supply Chain

With a need to meet the demands of current generations without compromising future generations’ ability, some fashion businesses have realized that they can no longer remain complacent. Usually, resistant to change, the fashion industry has stopped holding back when it comes to taking responsibility for their supply chain management and business practices. Clear rules are being put in place by companies hoping to reduce their shared impacts across the supply chain. As fashion businesses wake up to the importance of embodying Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Supply Chain Management (SCM), more companies have started to put sustainability at the top of their agenda. 

Creating Efficiency Across Supply Chains

The fashion businesses that have been paying close attention to their supply chain have found that by investing in supply chain management and responsible business practices, they have a competitive advantage. They can also deliver both positive environmental and social benefits. These include gains like less reliance on scarce ecological resources and improved efficiency and profitability over the long term. Also, fashion businesses taking responsibility for their supply chain system have managed to increase profit through significant operational efficiency gains, reduce global waste, the cost of material inputs, energy, and transportation, according to United Nations Global Compact. 

Another way that the fashion industry is creating efficiencies across supply chains is through digital technologies. The mindful application of technology has helped forward-thinking businesses find ways to solve issues that exist within fashion’s supply chain. Martin Drake-Knight, a design engineer at Teemill, told Alexandra Leonards, a contributor to Raconteur: “The design of the industry itself is outdated.” Drake-Knight continues: “For us, it’s about viewing the supply chain as part of a connected system and looking for positive solutions across the product life cycle, from where clothing comes from through to where it goes after it’s worn out.” 

Although somewhat overdue, technology has been responsible for transforming the fashion industry’s supply chains when it comes to visibility and transparency. Digital technologies have made it possible for businesses to track and trace products while offering full visibility of the supply chain. Also, digital technologies, like Blockchain, are being adopted by fashion companies to improve the efficiency of the whole fashion supply chain. The technology is also disrupting traditional business models in a way that has been slowly changing the industry’s future for the better. 

Fighting For Fashion’s Future

Catalyzing change, German multinational corporation Puma was one of the first major corporations to publish details of the cost of its impact on the environment, back in 2011. The sportswear brand believed that “sustainability is essential to the health and future of our business.” Today, nine years later, more companies are starting to understand the benefits of aligning their strategies and operations with universal principles, especially regarding human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. It is a demand that has called for companies to commit, instead of just talking about examining various aspects of Responsible Supply Chain Management.

Despite the challenges that come with Supply Chain Management And Responsible Business Practices, United Nations Global Compact has successfully set off ‘the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. Established in July 2000 to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, United Nations Global Compact holds companies accountable for finding solutions for violations that appear in their supply chain. They stated in a Supply Chain Sustainability report: “The objective of supply chain sustainability is to create, protect and grow long-term environmental, social and economic value for all stakeholders involved in bringing products and serves to markets.”

Accelerated by the current crisis, it is great that sustainability has found a place at the top of many fashion brands’ agendas. Although some argue that the pandemic has left no room for choice, the Mckinsey report, ‘Time For Change’, reasons that the industry should not waste this opportunity to reshape its future. The report stresses that when it comes to sustainability, supply chains need to become more demand-driven and flexible to embrace the next normal. In the end, what it comes down to is that sustainable driven behavior from companies is capable of reshaping the fashion industry. It opens up to new ways of working and gives businesses a sharper focus on the future.

Learn how the Suuch GRID can help improve sustainability across the supply chain

Written by Muchaneta Kapfunde

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