How to make your supply chain responsible and sustainable!

Are you implementing the Sustainable Development Goals?

In September 2015 at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, world leaders have adopted the SDG 2030 Agenda including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This will aim at ending poverty, inequality, injustice and tackle climate change by 2030.

 Today we are 4 years into this process and 11 years away from reaching these goals. Business has a crucial role to play in achieving the SDG, as its supply chain represents between 50 and 70% of its sustainable footprint.

 This is certainly the case for textile companies, even if a lot of effort is done. Textile is still an industry that is highly polluting our earth and not always respecting the human being.

 As written by Martin Luther King Jr: “The earth is not just the environment we live in, We are the Earth, and we are always carrying her within us.”

 We are all responsible to reach the goals and therefore all companies have to do their best to procure their products while causing no harm to societies and environments. 

Big corporate companies are publishing on a regular basis their sustainable objectives, but how can a small to a medium-sized company also reach these objectives?

 First of all, set your goals! It makes sense to create long and short term objectives, but the road to reach them can be long since we all know that the supply chain is very complicated and that there may be various stakeholders involved.  Start defining your Corporate Social Responsibility principles and you do not need to be a corporate company to do so. A great tool is ISO 26000, which aims to promote a common understanding of the domain of societal responsibility.

Next, define your “As is” situation and your Objectives,  where you want to be in 1 year, 2 years, 5 or 10 years?

Start with small steps but be sure these are relevant steps.

Either you increase the sustainable level of different parts of your supply chain or go big directly by implementing the Outside in theory from Katrin Muff & Thomas Dyllick, or develop a Circular Economy business model. 

For example, a brand can start making at least one product group in its supply chain sustainability for the next collection, following a clear framework. 

Or define directly from the start in what way a product can be reused several times. But the Circular Economy will only work if you know in what way your supply chain is sustainable and by choosing the right raw materials. 

 How a brand will be able to do this? 

 By building a partnership based on trust with their suppliers and manufacturers; asking them to be open about their production, how do their suppliers manage their employees and who are their subcontractors?

 Search for multi-stakeholder certifications. For example, certifications developed by Textile exchange. Of course, there are many more certifications available, the most important is to understand them and assess if they are fitting to your company objectives. 

Ask your suppliers how they and their subcontractors are certified, and even more important ask them to show the certifications. Check and verify the certifications on a regular base.  

Another way to make your supply chain more sustainable is by implementing the Higg index, developed by the Sustainable Apparel collation. This is a great tool, delivering a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements and which covers the protection of the well being of the factory workers, and the environment. 

If you are a beginner in the area, you can start with the Higg self-assessment tool, available on their website which can help you to start your journey towards a sustainable supply chain and discover where you as a company stand today. 

The responsibility of us all, either for the company you own or you work in, is to start and continuing respecting the earth we carry within us!

As a textile expert, I work with companies and design creative workshops to create awareness and understanding in order to implement a change. Contact me for more information on this subject!

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