While many companies have made progress, the fashion industry as a whole faces growing environmental and social pressures. As apparel consumption continues to rise, the urgency will only increase.
The Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2018 report, published by Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group, presents a Roadmap to Scale offering concrete actions for every phase of the sustainability journey, as well as guidance in setting strategic priorities and implementing solutions. Based on the first common CEO Agenda on sustainability, the roadmap details high-impact areas that industry leaders consider to be urgent.
The first phase of the roadmap is all about building a strong foundation, with traceability across the supply chain being a prerequisite for companies to understand the social and environmental impact of their business practices and products. It enables brands to identify risks and challenges, as well as opportunities to increase operational efficiency, while building strong and trusting relationships with suppliers.
The fashion industry has one of the most complex production networks. With the industry’s multi-layered and fragmented supply chain, often involving large geographical and cultural distances between the brand and production, many brands and retailers lack visibility of where and how their products are produced.
Companies can start by mapping tier-one and tier-two suppliers, while frontrunners push further, extending to tier-three and tier-four. They need to identify the suppliers, understand their business practices and estimate the environmental and social impact generated by everyday business. To gather this information and related insights, many companies refer to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index. The Higg Index’s standardised assessment framework, for brands, retailers and manufacturers, supports to generate visibility across the value chain. It enables not only detailed comparisons across peers and factories, but also the identification of improvement areas across each player’s value chain.
Recently, a growing number of companies are making their traceability efforts public, becoming more transparent about their supply chains. According to Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index 2017, a third of the 100 biggest global fashion brands made their tier-one supplier lists public in 2017 – a jump from only 12% the year before. In recent years prominent consumer-facing campaigns are increasing public awareness and brands are under more and more pressure to be more transparent about how and where their products are made.
In addition to traceability, the roadmap lays out three other key enablers for building a strong foundation: resources, strategy and communication. Having a dedicated team with a clear mandate and a close connection to the core of the business, a clear strategy with measurable short- and long-term targets as well as frequent internal and external communication with stakeholders determines the brand’s ability to scale sustainability efforts later on.
Download and read more about building the foundation for sustainability in the Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2018 report, pages 28-35.