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William E Connor
CEO William E Connor and Associates Ltd
Which three major international political factors currently have a major impact on textile sourcing?
Setting aside any outbreak of hostility between nations, the three greatest political factors affecting textile sourcing are protectionism, protectionism and protectionism. The textile industry has historically been a stepping stone to development in newly industrialising countries going back nearly two centuries. Legacy interests in fully industrialised economies have a habit of not going away and remain politically powerful. For as long as I can remember, protectionism has remained a threat. One hopes universality of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ultimately prevails.
From which countries has sourcing increased and decreased? Which new geographies are being explored?
It remains impossible to ignore China with its combination of productivity, inherent efficiency, and continuously improving infrastructure. India has a long-term potential, with a population of over a billion and excellent demographics. Regulation and lack of infrastructure hold it back. Bangladesh and Vietnam continue to be seen as the two sourcing markets most likely to grow in importance in the next five years. We worry a little about stability in countries like Bangladesh, which is very important as an exporter to both Europe and the United States.
Which are the top sourcing countries for sustainable apparel, home textiles, footwear and leather items?
China, with its serious effort to tackle environmental threats, is top of mind. India, Vietnam and Bangladesh remain top choices, but health and safety issues can be challenges. The series of tragic accidents in Bangladesh's garment factories have led apparel players to explore new sourcing markets, actively seeking alternatives. Still, Bangladesh as a nation has prioritised the textile industry as a key to its future, which should fuel a greater move toward sustainability.
What parameters do suppliers/manufacturers need to comply with to be on-board with you?
With offices in 20 countries working with thousands of factories, sustained training and auditing are essential. We have a huge investment in this. Ethic and good governance is the cornerstone of what we do. We have clear standards, we communicate them assiduously and we take action when necessary. We are the only sourcing firm in the world to be included in Ethisphere's World's Most Ethical companies ranking. We maintain complete supply chain transparency. Our clients are among the most demanding in the world. We work hard to uphold their integrity and reputation. A rigorous programme of ongoing audits helps ensure that all suppliers with whom we work are in complete compliance with the most stringent social, labour, human rights, environmental and technical standards. All suppliers must sign and abide by our code of conduct, the strictest in the industry.
What are the current trends in sourcing?
Speed to market is of great importance with the need for a responsive supply chain driven by consumers with a rapidly changing demand and newness. Social media can quickly spread news and trends affecting fashion and demand.
Raw materials, social and environmental compliance costs and labour will continue to rise, presenting new challenges to the sourcing environment in the coming years.
What are the top three challenges that you face ensuring a sustainable supply chain with minimum carbon footprint?
The main challenges are to identify the bigger carbon sources within the supply chain and the need to do it with a multitier approach as everyone is involved, from vendors to consumers. We need to work closely with our clients and vendors to understand and provide guidance on efficiency and renewable options that will eventually lead to lower the impact of the carbon footprint. At the end, sustainability-oriented companies can be inspiring and prompt other companies to follow.
What is the annual budget allocated towards research and development (R&D)? How big is the team?
We continuously invest in R&D enhancing and extending our technology platforms to our clients and to the vendors we work with. The investment is significant and increasingly involving the collaboration and support of our partners.
What is your growth strategy for the next five years?
Connor's growth strategy is to continue to expand our client relationship both with existing clients and with new prospective clients. We will continuously adapt to client requirements and market trends while maintaining reliability, transparency trustworthiness and integrity to the point of each client coming to view Connor as its own. (RR)
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