Both a challenge and an opportunity: possible solutions for transparent supply chains in the fashion industry
Source & Copyright by Elkline
Author: House of Eden
Recycling, resale and green capsule collections are trend-setting buzzwords that currently define the zeitgeist of the fashion industry. But what do these superficial terms actually mean? There is too little know-how on the part of consumers, while there is too much greenwashing on the part of companies. However, there is a solution to this problem: Transparency. More specifically, transparent supply chains - a way for companies to better control their environmental footprint and for consumers to make more conscious choices about responsible fashion.
What actually is a transparent supply chain?
As society's awareness of sustainability and ethics increases, so does the interest in gaining insight into the value creation process of products. And this is what a transparent supply chain is all about. While the term "transparent supply chain" sounds kind of cryptic, it clearly describes that any information around a product has to be presented openly.
Transparent supply chains make it possible to trace at which location a product was made from what and under what conditions. Furthermore, it also shows the route the product has taken from this location to the end consumer. In short, three uncompromising pillars can be defined for a transparent supply chain:
- The source of raw materials
- The factories including their production processes
- The distribution network
Through transparency, consumers have the chance to obtain information about complex processes. This includes knowledge about how raw materials are grown or extracted and whether the resources are then used consciously. It also includes whether a manufacturing factory adheres to strict standards against forced labour and child labour and, last but not least, whether a low-emission fleet is used for transport.
What can a transparent supply chain mean for the fashion industry?
It is no wonder that the keyword transparency is particularly relevant in the fashion industry. More than 100 billion garments are sold worldwide every year, many of which come from countries in the global South. Standards questionable. The resulting CO2 emissions amount to 2,1 billion tonnes. Of these, 70% occur along the production process. This means that the supply chain has the greatest influence on the ecological footprint of the fashion industry.
How can the complexity of supply chains be reduced?
First and foremost, it is important to rely on a small number of main suppliers to reduce the complexity of supply chains. The fair fashion brand Elkline, for example, shows how this can be done. With only 11 suppliers, the brand has a rather small number of producers, and thus also a manageable supply chain that links to the producers and promises a close, long-term and reliable cooperation.
Bettina Bothe, Head of Brand at Elkline, confirms that many small manufacturers have better control over production and thus also guarantee ethical and sustainable standards. At Elkline, quality and sustainability are the most important selection criteria.
"With new suppliers, we look at existing audits and certificates. There is also a Code of Conduct, which requires compliance with social criteria, among other things. This must be accepted and adhered to by new suppliers," Bettina Bothe continues. It is also important that suppliers fit the brand in terms of size and mindset in order to be able to strive for a joint, long-term development.
Source & Copyright Elkline
In addition to CO2 emissions, the fashion industry also pollutes the environment through water and energy waste and the use of toxic chemicals. These pollute water, endanger health and destroy ecosystems. Innovation plays a major role in developing alternative techniques and sustainable materials.
When it comes to fabrics, Elkline is also all about the will to constantly develop and improve. For example, recycled polyester is used instead of conventional polyester material, and eco-friendly dyes are used instead of toxic inks. "Innovation is important for almost every fashion brand in order to remain competitive. Clothing doesn't have to follow every fast fashion peak, but still be contemporary," adds Bettina Bothe.
What exactly constitutes a transparent supply chain?
In contrast to non-transparent companies, companies with a transparent supply chain ensure their consumers have a holistic view of their policies and actions. Empowerment for conscious consumers. Other benefits of a transparent supply chain are:
- maintaining ethical and sustainable standards
- traceability of products
- zero tolerance for forced and child labor
- fair working conditions and wages
- verifiability of materials
- resource protection
- respectful dealings with all stakeholders (suppliers, manufacturers, etc.)
Authentic manufacture with a QR label
Elkline is a company that sets an example in terms of transparency. The Hamburg-based fair fashion label has been taking social, ecological and societal responsibility for 20 years. Before it was en vogue. Driven by the desire for sustainable development, the brand innovates and sets new standards in the fashion industry. To this end, Elkline has been working closely with its suppliers, such as Greenpeace, for 18 years and only sells fashion that is in line with ethics and sustainability.
Source & Copyright by Elkline
Driven by the realisation that consumers want to be informed in order to make conscious purchasing decisions, the company has developed the Elkline Care Label. In addition to care instructions, the label also contains information about sustainable and ethical certifications and the supply chain. If you want to take a deep dive into the origin of your clothes, you can simply scan the product-specific QR code contained in the care label with your smartphone and follow the supply chain live on the open source map.
"We want our customers to know how many people are involved until the products are available for purchase in our store. In this way, we want a garment to be appreciated, cared for and worn for a long time. We also want to show that we are all still on the way together to improve the environmental and working conditions in the production of our clothes. At the same time, we use the QR label to authentically show how clothes are made," Bettina Bothe explains.
Last but not least, trust and cooperation are essential
For Elkline, transparency in the supply chain is the most important criterion in order to be able to act and make improvements with regard to social and ecological aspects. This is the only way to maintain personal contact with producers - the sustainable fashion label knows all the productions first-hand and works with people on an equal footing.
The benefit: joint implementation of mutual wishes and improvements on the topic of sustainability. And through the open source map, this transparency of the supply chain can also be passed on to the customers. They can get holistic information about the route the product has taken and also see photos of the places and the workers.
Seasonal trends and a throwaway mentality also show how important transparent supply chains are. After all, these reinforce blind consumption and thus also the willingness of companies to produce more and faster. For the purpose of maximising profits, but at the expense of the environment and many people. Last but not least, the appeal to brands is to create trust. With suppliers and consumers by cultivating and disclosing relationships based on partnership. In this way, it is possible to walk the path together.