Collaboration and increased transparency are critical to improve the sustainability of fashion supply chains, according to a report.
Fast fashion contributes towards water pollution, chemical waste and carbon emissions. The industry is unsustainable in the long run without improvements in industry practices, said US NGO Green America’s report Toxic Textiles.
Fourteen major US fashion brands were scored on their environmental and labour practices, including water management, chemical management, waste and recycling, and factory safety.
According to the report’s scorecard, Target, VF Corporation (The North Face), Nike and Gap had the best practices, while Carter’s, J.Crew and Forever 21 were lacking in all areas.
The report said “collaboration and increased transparency is key” for improving sustainability in supply chains.
Target, rated highest on the scorecard, demonstrated quality sustainability practices through collaborative programmes and goal setting. It is a member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals organisation which works with the industry to ensure zero production of chemical waste.
The firm has also committed to sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2022, and is part of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Clean by Design programme to reduce annual water consumption by over 500m gallons by 2025.
The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions and 42m tons of chemical waste through production each year, according to Green America. Meanwhile, about 20% of industrial water pollution is from textiles and less than 1% of clothing materials are recycled.
The report said companies are making large sustainability commitments without plans to measure progress or achieve the goal. Also, some firms have “token sustainability initiatives” that are used to show evidence of sustainability despite not addressing many environmental and social issues.
“Transparency is improving but mostly still lacking,” said the report. It said more companies needed to have a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List to identify and restrict chemicals used in the manufacturing process.
Business models need to change to enable supply chains to adopt circular economy principles, according to the report. This includes improvements in technology for recycling materials and increased transparency in the manufacturing process.
“Although companies are starting to talk more about how they are incorporating circularity principles into their business models and supply chains, it is important to keep in mind that within the current structure, true circularity will be difficult – if not impossible – to achieve,” according to Green America.
A CIPS spokesperson said: “More and more companies are beginning to recognise that it is in their long-term interests to invest in building sustainable businesses and that this issue has moved far beyond just a corporate social responsibility strategy.
“Sustainable procurement is efficient procurement. It’s a way of future-proofing supply chains as those placing sustainability as a strategic goal in their business will have a higher chance of surviving the peaks and troughs of the marketplace as this moves higher up the public agenda.”
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