We recently spent a fascinating morning at the RSA with a group of business leaders from the clothing industry talking about creating sustainable clothing supply chains. Our discussions showed that, whilst the industry is taking action to become more sustainable, levels of progress vary significantly and there is a recognition that much more needs to be done.
However, ‘doing much more’ is easier said than done. Sustainability practitioners in clothing retailers and brands face pressure from a wide range of stakeholders across complex supply chains and are pulled in a variety of directions as they try to respond to their sustainability challenges.
To date, social considerations have rightly received a lot of attention, however environmental considerations are becoming increasingly prevalent. Ensuring that your sustainability strategy balances environmental and social considerations and focuses limited resources effectively is, therefore, essential.
Our work with companies in the clothing sector and beyond suggests that answering four key questions can help companies to understand and start to address environmental challenges across their extended supply chains...
1. Where are your biggest environmental impacts?
Such a simplified analysis is often all that is needed to make an effective start. If necessary, this can be supplemented by more detailed work in specific areas, for instance, to support decisions about fibre selection and process improvements, and to measure and publicly communicate results of specific initiatives.
2. What are your sustainability priorities?
3. What are your biggest supply chain risks and opportunities?
4. Where can you make the biggest difference?
Making the most of your sustainability initiatives
The response to climate change and other environmental challenges requires sweeping changes across the entire clothing supply chain - a daunting prospect for many! However, there is widespread recognition across the industry that doing nothing is no longer an option and that small, focussed steps from an informed starting point are preferable to a scattergun approach that fails to identify, prioritise and effectively address the main sustainability challenges.
Circular Ecology and LRS Consultancy are working with the School of Design at the University of Leeds, SRS Sustainable Business and Wellington Green as part of a consortium that supports the UK clothing sector. If you would like to discuss our work please get in touch.