How Can the Apparel Industry Leverage Data for Supply Chain Sustainability

One of the biggest hurdles to fulfilling sustainability goals is the lack of transparency in the apparel supply chain.
How Can the Apparel Industry Leverage Data for Supply Chain Sustainability

Sustainability is a buzzword in most industries, especially in apparel. Brands have come under increasing pressure to show and prove the origin of their products from consumers and regulators. 

Global brands such as H&M and Zara have made public pledges to have a majority of their clothes made sustainably. Nike recently announced that for the first time it will tie executive compensation to its diversity and sustainability goals. 

Companies in India are stepping up to the challenge. Several brands in India are consciously moving towards introducing sustainable clothing lines. In 2019, the Indian textile industry launched Project SU.RE, in partnership with the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), UN in India, and IMG Reliance. SU.RE, which stands for ‘Sustainable Resolution’, is a move towards sustainable fashion and a commitment to a clean environment. 

Sustainability for Manufacturers is Just as Important

While most of the public narrative has naturally been around brands, manufacturers have an opportunity to play their part too. Those who can show sustainability in their manufacturing processes will be more attractive to brands.  

One of the biggest hurdles to fulfilling sustainability goals is the lack of transparency in the apparel supply chain. The apparel industry is notoriously opaque and complex. The reality is most brands still do not know where their raw materials come from. 

Building genuine supply chain transparency will require manufacturers and mills to take a proactive approach.

Data Consolidation: Is Technology the Solution?

While the apparel industry is one of the most data-intensive, most of this data is manually maintained and in an inconsistent format. The reality is that all this data doesn’t matter if it is not stitched together to analyze and glean actionable insights. 

Here’s where technology can help. Platform-based solutions, like Serai, can help companies to digitize and make their supply chain data actionable. Brands and manufacturers can upload and make sense of vast amounts of supply chain data including the origins of raw materials, garment production, and shipment and order details.  
 
Having all this data in one place is powerful – companies can easily look up where a specific fabric is sourced from, or where it was produced. They can see the ESG credentials of the participants in their supply chain. In addition to demonstrating ESG commitments, this knowledge will also help businesses identify inefficiencies in their supply chain. For example, they’ll be able to get valuable insights into areas such as consumption of water, energy, and greenhouse gas, or man-hours spent throughout the various stages in the supply chain. 

The ability to integrate other third-party, internal, or external systems such as data providers, ERP systems, adverse media monitoring services, visualization, and analytics tools can also result in a comprehensive, single view of the extended supply chain. Imagine having all this information in a format that is easy to understand, analyze and share with your supply chain. It can go a long way in helping organizations making more informed business decisions. 

What the Future Looks Like

Currently, much of this data consolidation is time-consuming and difficult, but emerging supply chain traceability and visibility solutions make this much simpler. What will set apparel companies apart is not having the data, but knowing how to use, analyze and share this data. 

As writer William Gibson said, “The future is here, it is just not evenly distributed”. The technology to build supply chain transparency exists today. Manufacturers across India now need to start adopting this technology. This will set them apart in a crowded industry. 
 

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