From factories in Bangladesh to cotton farms in India, there is no denying that the fashion industry’s complex supply chain is going under fundamental changes. Before the pandemic, there were already innovations around new types of supply chains. Now with the trauma of COVID-19 still affecting fashion businesses, some sustainability actions have slowed down but not stopped. That said, there are a few fashion businesses that have managed to do both; navigate through the crisis while adopting new approaches.
Forced by both the crisis and customers, it became imperative that the fashion industry builds effective supply chain management and improve supply chain transparency. Many are incorporating green practices into their supply chain by simplifying their business, so it aligns with achievable environmental and sustainable plans. For fashion businesses, the crisis has presented an opportunity to improve their supply chain, production, and how they reuse and recycle materials.
Driven to bring about real transformation at a large scale, one of the ways that the fashion industry is re-evaluating its supply chain is through collaboration. The latest collaboration between WWF Sweden and Google addresses the impact that usually occurs at the raw materials stage in the production process. Like any successful partnership, they both bring something to the table; Google brings their Cloud’s technical capacity, and WWF brings an in-depth understanding of assessing raw materials.
The partnership answers the call for sustainability and introduces a new data-enriched, decision-making platform designed to help businesses make responsible sourcing decisions within the fashion community. According to a press release, “each material and sourcing location will be scored on multiple environmental issues such as water scarcity or air pollution, as well as estimating specific impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions and accounting for the ‘mitigation benefits’ of more sustainable sourcing options.”
Announced last week, Kate Brandt, Google Sustainability Officer, shared in the press release: “Sustainability is a challenge that crosses industry boundaries, and we firmly believe that solutions require strong partnerships and collaboration.” Brandt continues: “Our ambition is to fill fundamental data gaps by bringing greater accuracy to environmental reporting—ultimately moving toward more sustainable processes. By combining our technology, and with data inputs from many key industry brands and retailers, we believe we can significantly magnify this work together.”
Driving the need for more responsible and sustainable choices, I like the fact that the platform will help decision-makers meet challenges head-on by making supply chain data visible and accessible. It is something that will ensure that we are all able to steer the industry as a whole in a more sustainable direction. On this, Ian Pattison, Head of Customer Engineering, Retail, Google UK/ IE, added: “It’s our ambition to create a data-enriched decision-making platform that enables analysis of the supply chain in a way that has not been possible before at this scale.” The platform, which can be used on a standalone basis or to complement existing efforts, has also been designed to provide a more comprehensive view of raw materials of clothing manufacturers’ supply chains.
According to Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future report, the negative impacts of the industry will be potentially catastrophic if the industry continues on its current path. Hoping to transform the whole industry and make it “even more powerful”, Håkan Wirtén, CEO of WWF Sweden, believes: “This project is an excellent example of how we can take valuable work with a long term partner like Ikea, collaborate with another strong WWF partner like Google to make that work even more powerful, and make it open source so that hopefully it can help with the transformation of a whole industry.”