Transparency in fashion:
Why it matters and what can be done.
Transparency in fashion: Why it matters and what can be done.
As consumers become more conscious of the environmental and social impact of fashion, they demand more sustainable and ethical practices from brands. However, achieving transparency in the fashion industry’s supply chain remains a significant challenge.
Supply chain transparency involves mapping and disclosing information about a product’s journey from raw materials to the finished product. It includes the names and locations of suppliers, working conditions of workers, and the environmental impact of production. This enables consumers to make informed decisions about the products they buy and hold brands accountable for their actions.
A lack of visibility of supply chains allows exploitative, unsafe working conditions and environmental damage to thrive, while obscuring who has the responsibility and power to redress these issues.
In order to building trust between brands and consumers, transparency is key. Consumers want to know that the brands they buy from are committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Additionally, it can help brands identify areas where they can improve their practices, leading to increased efficiency and reduced costs in the long term. By knowing where products come from, brands can identify potential risks in the supply chain and take action to address them.
Three key areas to focus on are:
The Planet: what materials are used, in which proportions, how much waste is created, how do they take care of said waste, how is water used and treated?
People at all stages of the supply chain: who works for the brand, in what factories, under what conditions, are they safe, are they paid a living wage, how many hours do they work, do they have workers’ rights?
Animals: are animal-derived materials used, how are they sourced, how does the brand control how animals are treated?
However, achieving supply chain transparency is not without its challenges. The fashion industry is global, and most brands source their materials and labour from multiple countries, making it difficult to track and monitor every step of the supply chain. Brands also face challenges in obtaining accurate information from their suppliers, who may not be willing or able to disclose information about their practices.
Here are some ways small sustainable fashion businesses can be transparent:
- Provide information about the materials used in their products, including their origin and sustainability.
- Disclose information about the production process, including details on the working conditions and treatment of workers.
- Share information about the environmental impact of the production process, including the use of water, energy, and chemicals.
- Be open about the pricing of products, including the cost of production and markups.
- Share information about any third-party certifications or audits related to sustainability and ethical practices.
- Use technology, such as blockchain, to track products and materials throughout the supply chain.
- Engage with customers and stakeholders by responding to questions and concerns about sustainability and ethical practices.
- Publish reports or sustainability strategies that outline goals and progress towards sustainability and ethical practices.
- Collaborate with other sustainable fashion businesses or organizations to share knowledge and resources.
- Participate in independent assessments or audits of their sustainability and ethical practices to ensure transparency and accountability.
Increased transparency enables workers’ rights and environmental advocates to identify, report and redress suspected abuses and helps brands and retailers to better track and manage social, environmental and governance risks that affect their business.
Being transparent with your business can build trust with consumers, identify areas for improvement, and mitigate risk. While there are challenges to achieving supply chain transparency, steps can be taken to promote it. By working with responsible suppliers, investing in technology, implementing policies and procedures, and engaging with consumers and stakeholders, brands can promote supply chain transparency and create a sustainable fashion industry that respects workers, communities, and the environment.
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