Leadership & Sustainability
Please tell us about your vision of sustainability in the textiles and fashion sector, and how you plan to achieve it. What are the current sustainability trends in the textiles and fashion sector? You provide solutions over the entire value chain and supply chain networks. Please elaborate on the solutions and practices. Sustainable leaders play a crucial role in promoting sustainability. What are the challenges faced by the leaders? You promote firms to adopt sustainable business models. How beneficial is this model? What would be the top five critical steps you would recommend to a mid-scale enterprise to adopt to ensure sustainability? What cost would these steps entail?
Our vision of sustainability in the textiles and fashion sector is very simple. We want to achieve apparel, footwear, outdoor as well as textile products designed and manufactured with the highest level of responsibility and care for the environment and the health, safety and well-being of the people producing and purchasing the products. Therefore, it's obvious that the industry must focus on best practices. Our contribution to attain that vision is to raise awareness to crucial topics such as materiality or supply chain opacity within the industry. Not only do we raise awareness, we also offer solutions to continuously improve companies' processes regarding sustainability, and we support our customers in every way possible in order to increase their competitiveness and shape a better future for all of us.
Before we talk about the sustainability trends, it is important to realise that market trends form the basis. The market trends are reflected in manufacturing and technical trends as well as consumer trends. On one hand, consumers demand speed and customised products, while on the other hand they also expect transparency within the manufacturing process and the supply chain. Nowadays, consumers are well aware of their growing power influencing the textiles and other industries through social media.
As a reaction to those market trends, a few sustainability trends stand out:
- Environmental management in the supply chain.
- Chemical management is a new trend as brands and retailers realise that they need a holistic, proactive approach instead of just relying on RSL and product testing.
- Product environmental footprint (PEF) becomes increasingly interesting as sector-specific rules, different approaches for verification and communication methods for notifying consumers and stakeholders on LCA performance are created.
- Circular economy focuses on re-and upcycling in order to close the loop and offers potentials for cost savings.
- Microfibres have received increased attention due to the pollution of the sea. It is a great challenge for the textile sector to find a solution to that problem as the use of synthetic fibres is so widespread.
We provide tailor-made solutions for our customers that help to embed sustainability into the DNA of companies. We deliver empowerment that guides our customers towards the awareness, knowledge and tools they need to drive to a successful sustainability programme. Hence, we offer consulting for strategy development and implementation, business ethics and controlling, sustainable manufacturing and supply chain management, communications, green operations and retail as well as a sustainable product portfolio. This includes counseling regarding software solutions and tools that enable companies to monitor and optimise all of their sustainable efforts. Our solution is built on the core approach of the value chain and materiality (i.e. where there are impacts, risks and opportunities) along the value chain. We want to make a difference where the influence is the largest.
It has not always been easy to be a sustainable leader, but it is definitely worth it. The biggest challenge is to implement a holistic sustainability strategy that fits the company and creates business value. So, the leaders have to make sure that the sustainability vision and goals are understood throughout the company and align with the general business strategy. They should take care that they engage all functions in their organisations, and that they promote inspiration and commitment to their employees. Sustainable leaders have to ask themselves if they manage the sustainability aspects in their business that matter the most in creation of sustainable benefits and how they should cope with risks and impacts. Finally, sustainability leaders need to focus on what is important and define the business case for doing so.
Sustainable business models are full of benefits, not only for the environment but also for the brands, retailers and manufacturers. Basically, there are six benefits of adopting sustainable business model:
- Risk minimisation: Dealing with sustainability aspects in advance reduces the risk of negative surprises that cause compensation payments and damage your reputation.
- Compliance: Misleading environmental claims and the violation of existing law result in high penalties.
- Innovation and market development: Sustainability leaders are the first selling products to the growing environmental niche and shape the markets of the future.
- Cost savings can be realised through improvements in various areas such as in waste management, packaging and energy consumption. This is the easy way to increase your profits.
- Integrated operations: By knowing their supply chain and production processes sustainable leaders can reduce quality issues and delays while increasing productivity which has a positive effect on their profits.
- Brand and reputation enhancement: A sustainable leader will attract better and motivated employees and loyal customers to ensure a bright future for the company. Furthermore, the company will be in a position to explore business advantages and increase its market share.
Personally, I would recommend enterprises to understand material aspects and then defining sustainability strategy. The costs depend on the goals a company sets but there are steps to sustainability for every budget and the benefits will speak for themselves.
- Set tentative goals and align them;
- Think of how to reach the goals, which programmes you could establish;
- Create your business case and find out about the impacts and costs;
- Test your total strategy and your business case;
- Go for it or make any necessary adjustments to your strategy.
Published on: 20/04/2017
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.