The fashion industry is realising its responsibility in developing sustainable fashion practices, including for the environment, for workers and for the future success and growth of their own brand. Consumers are demanding transparency in their clothing brands more than ever before, responding to concerns over the attitudes towards and the manufacture of fast fashion. For brands to remain relevant and sustainable, investing in transparency across the entire supply chain is essential.

What exactly is transparency in global fashion production?

Put simply, it’s the mechanics, resources and workers behind the fashion garments. This includes the working conditions of the factory workers, sustainability of resources and the real environmental impact.  The long global supply chains of the fashion industry has made transparency difficult in the past, making it easier for brands to hide unethical and unsafe practices. However, brands and manufacturers are now being more closely scrutinised for their social, ethical and environmental policies, creating the need for ‘radical transparency’ across the entire supply chain.

How will transparency benefit brands, workers and the environment?

  1. Transparency ensures fair treatment of workers across the supply chain

Firstly, transparency makes things a lot safer. A fully transparent global supply chain makes it necessary for brands to know who’s involved in every step of the manufacturing process. This makes it possible for them identify and work with ethical, sustainable manufacturers who have worker rights and environmental impact as key considerations.

2. Fashion consumers are demanding more trust in their brands

Consumers increasing concerns about the sustainability of fashion has resulted in them losing trust in their once favourite fashion brands. Operating a fully transparent supply chain is a vital way of brands to address this, demonstrating the commitment to honesty and sustainability that consumers want to see. For brands that want to remain relevant, this is vital for their successful future marketing and business success.

3. Transparency will highlight key areas to change across the supply chain

Transparency won’t automatically make fashion instantly more sustainable, but it’s a key tool to bring areas needing change to everyone’s attention.  Encouraging radical transparency will help identify which resources need to be more sustainable, where better working conditions are needed and how to reduce environmental impacts. It’s an essential first step in sustainability.

4. Committing to genuine transparency will benefit environment

Brands and manufacturers who commit to a process of transparency across their supply chains will be able to have real impact on environmental sustainability. Customers will be able to assess the true environmental impact of the clothes they’re willing to buy more easily; from which resources are used in their production to the impacts of shipping across the world. This will motivate fashion brands to be more environmentally friendly, from sourcing sustainable raw materials to encouraging closed loop supply.

How can the transparency across the supply chain be achieved?

Fashion brands need to make a genuine commitment to their corporate responsibility on transparency. Global brands such as Reebok and Adidas have recently scored highly in measures of transparency, so it can be achieved. Brands need to be more willing to share information and data across their whole supply chain, including on their purchase practices, manufacturers they work with and genuine environmental impacts of their production. Essential to this is making the information easily accessible and accurate for customers to see, as well as including specific data on carbon emissions, work conditions, water consumption and pollution generated.

The combination of customer demand, brand commitment and real impact data instead of policies and sustainable aspiration will create effective transparency across entire fashion industry, contributing to an environmentally sustainable future of fashion.

Textile Consult operates globally and in the UK, consulting on a variety of management, training and sustainability issues within the textile industry. Contact us today to find out how we’ll work with you to find effective, sustainable solutions for your company.