Why Fashion Brands Must Embrace Supply Chain Maturity to Make Their Business More Sustainable

In the report “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future” by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Circular Fibres Initiative, a compelling vision of a new textiles economy is outlined, based on the principles of a circular economy.  The idea is to keep clothes, textiles and fibres at their highest value during use and to re-enter the economy afterwards, never ending up as waste.  The report states “to transform and usher in a new textiles economy, an unprecedented degree of commitment, collaboration and innovation is required.”i

This statement caused me to sit up and start thinking deeply.  In my 20 years’ experience in supply chain management across a multitude of industries, I have needed to plan; organise; analyse; focus; prioritise; coordinate; collaborate; listen; learn to do things differently; influence; change and innovate to be successful in my job.  Whatever the industry, my goal has always been to achieve best customer service, at lowest cost or least investment to the business. 

My ability to do my job well, was impacted by the maturity of the organisations’ supply chain.  In a mature supply chain, it was much easier for me to focus on innovation and external changes, because basic collaborative decision-making processes were in place.  The fact that the overarching vision and goal of the company was clear, made it easier to select, collaborate and communicate with vendors, who upheld the same values and goals. On the other hand, my job became much harder when supply chain maturity was low.  For example, when animosity existed between departments; when everyone had their own sales numbers; made their own product development decisions with little regard for supply chain impact; and when we only barked at and transacted with suppliers.

If collaboration and Innovation are key to making the Fashion system circular, then it is clear to me that supply chain maturity inside fashion organisations is instrumental in making this change happen.   If basic supply chain processes tools, systems and process are not in place in a Fashion brand, then this is the first place to start.  It presents an opportunity to put in place best practise taken from a multitude of industries and embed goals which can make a brand more responsive, responsible and profitable.

In an ideal world, all functions and teams inside a fashion brand must be able to collaborate and create a single internal supply chain voice, which is aligned on the purpose and problem it is setting out to solve for its customer, profitably.  This “single supply chain voice”, must then be able to convey its purpose and message externally to its supplier network and be able to align on common values and goals, towards which all parties will collaborate transparently.  At this level of collaboration synergies and innovations can be found, which will attempt to change and influence the fashion system; to make it circular rather than linear and to stop negatively impacting our planet.

Altrubi is a training and consulting business.  We help sustainable Fashion Brands make a positive impact by improving supply chain maturity.  We train supply chain leaders to build profitable; responsible and responsive supply chains, by helping them create a compelling vision; get the basics right; leverage innovation and inspire others.

Our teams have 20-years end-to-end supply chain management experience and have improved supply chain maturity at big brands such as UNICEF and Innocent Drinks.

Our vision is a world of Fashion making a positive impact on our planet economically, socially and environmentally, with a strong sense of purpose reflected in both brand and supply chain.

i. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future-download-the-report-infographics

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