Evaluate, Calculate, and Get to Know your Supply Chain

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Whether the relationship is rooted in chemistry, circularity or consumer awareness, experts believe the best course of action in the era of sustainability is to know your supply chain. Understanding that it takes an interrelated system to improve the sustainability of product, the livelihood of workers, and ultimately the state of the planet, was a main takeaway from discussions held during the winter trade show season.

An OR Winter Online talk on chemicals and circularity hosted by bluesign serves as a good example of today’s emphasis on connecting the dots, from product to materials to chemistry, so that organizations can improve their environmental footprint across their entire network.

Consider this: only 10 percent of chemicals used in making materials remains in bulk fabric; 90 percent is going out the smokestack and into the waste stream. “It's important to think about that,” said Kevin Myette, director of global brand services, bluesign technologies AG. So, too, is the extraordinary amount of emissions related to the textile/apparel industry (about 2 to  percent of the 1.2B to 3.3B tons calculated as total global emissions). Myette’s OR presentation focused on the multi-layered role chemistry plays in where emissions come from. Choosing the best chemistry holds the key to making improvements right now,” said Myette, who made the point that chemistry is often not part of the circularity conversation and you need to have the whole picture in mind.

A Texworld NYC talk on Fair Trade also highlighted the importance of forging a deep understanding of the supply chain. But in this case the discussion focused on how that relationship between brand and factory can also enhance consumer relations.

In a presentation titled, “Journey to Fair Trade and Sustainability,” Paul Rice, founder and CEO, Fair Trade USA, noted that while Fair Trade certification with the apparel segment has been a slow but steady climb over the past decade, it is now the organization’s fastest growing program. According to Rice, Fair Trade’s shared value model is good for workers, good for factories — with a higher employee retention rate and safer environment — and a good way to talk to consumers about ethical manufacturing.

Fair Trade partners, retailer Madewell and denim maker Saitex International, praised the relationship. Liz Hershfield, sourcing manager for Madewell said her company kicked off a Fair Trade partnership with Saitex two years ago that “supports safer, more sustainable factories where workers have a voice.” Madewell’s first Fair Trade denim collection with Saitex debuted in 2019.

Hershfield and Sanjeev Bahl, CEO, Saitex agree that communicating Fair Trade partnerships through product labels and corporate messaging has proved positive with consumers. “Transparency is key to driving change and building consumer support,” said Bahl.

“Fair Trade partnerships collapse the walls between workers and consumers,” said Rice, who explained that traditional silos between brand and consumer and between brand and factory are coming down. “Fair Trade should be thought of as a tool to empower businesses to enable consumers to ask who made this product,” Rice added.

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