Fashion procurement needs a stick to make the supply chain sustainable

Sustainable sourcing throughout the supply chain will be more than just a buzzword in 2020. Let’s face it, the need to prove sustainable credentials will be fundamental to doing business in the new roaring ’20s.

Last week McKinsey released its 2019 chief purchasing officer survey for the fashion sector. There can’t be a sector more acutely aware of sustainability credentials than fashion. I would even go as far to say that it is the fashion…. Oh never mind.

Seriously, fashion retail is sensitive to fads. It needs to respond quickly and make predictions early throughout its supply chain.

The McKinsey survey reflects the perspectives of 64 participating sourcing executives, who together are responsible for a total sourcing value of more than $100 billion. Most reported that responsible and sustainable sourcing is already a top priority on their chief executive’s agenda. Furthermore, it was the area in greatest need of improvement in their companies.

Asked to identify the three topics in sustainable apparel sourcing at the top of their agendas for the next five years. The top-ranked area for action was sustainable materials). Other priorities were transparency and traceability, supplier relationships, and purchasing practices.

The finding in the research that caught the eye the most was that the majority of those chief purchasing officers surveyed aspired to source at least half of their products from sustainable materials by 2025. Anyone can be aspirational, but it is action that is required…

While it is easy to forget that normal government business is being conducted in the House of Commons it’s worth reminding sourcing and procurement professionals with such sustainability aspirations as those in the McKinsey survey of the Environmental Audit Committee report into Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability, which was published back in February.

It recommended that the government reforms taxation to reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.

It said that moving from conventional to organic cotton and from virgin polyester to recycled PET (in garments designed to minimise shedding) would help to reduce the negative impact of the clothing industry.

It also said that the government should investigate whether its proposed tax on virgin plastics, which comes into force in 2022, should be applied to textile products that contain less than 50 per cent recycled PET to stimulate the market for recycled fibres in the UK.

Supply chain professionals with sustainability aspirations should remember that the carrot might soon be backed up with a big stick. It’s only a matter of time.

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