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Building transparency in your supply chain

  • Opinion
  • November 14, 2019
  • Vanessa Thompson
Building transparency in your supply chain

Brands are under pressure to become more ethical, but how does this pressure apply to Kiwi fashion retailers? Unravelled Consultants founder and director Vanessa Thompson explains.

We’ve all seen the headlines. A fashion brand is globally slammed in the media when someone discovers the poor treatment of their garment workers; a garment worker finally gets the courage to speak out about their ill treatment; or a disaster strikes at a garment factory (such as the collapse of Rana Plaza) due to poor safety standards and brand labels are found in the rubble. When the media talks about these incidents, it is not the manufacturer that is crushed. It is the brand. 

We can no longer conduct business in this way. Businesses need to take ownership of their products right from the beginning, and light up the darkness of their supply chains to find out who is making their products. As noted business writer Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

Transparency of production and supply chains are more advanced in the food industry. The ‘Farm to Fork’ movement has gained momentum globally, as consumers are increasingly curious about where their food is coming from. We can now trace products like eggs to flour back to the farm where they were produced. This demand for transparency is becoming more prominent in the fashion industry, with more and more people participating in  Fashion Revolution’s #whomademyclothes movement. Consumers want to know how their clothes are made, and who made them, and if the businesses they shop with align with their values.

I have worked in the New Zealand fashion industry for most of my career, and knowing the names and conditions of the factories I worked with was incredibly challenging. New Zealand fashion businesses struggle with meeting the huge production volumes that some large overseas players would order, so often orders are placed through agents or third party suppliers in order to meet the factory minimums. This often means that traceability and accountability would stop there. In order to get transparency in our supply chain, we need to reverse the way current design and production systems are done, and rebuild the supply chain from the beginning. 

To do this, businesses need to start at the raw material stage. By working directly with yarn, fabric and component suppliers, and by building stronger direct relationships, you can not only help to reduce the risk of forced or child labour in your supply chain, but also confirm that audits and certifications are up to date, and their environmental credentials check out. This will also enable you to develop new innovative fabrications, and also explore opportunities in cost savings. The next step would be to instruct your CMT factory on all fabrics and components you have directly selected. Because you have full transparency over costs and lead times of your raw materials, you will be able to make more informed and measured decisions on prices, unit buys and deliveries.

Although building a supply chain from the beginning can have its challenges, it allows your business to have complete visibility and more control over each part of your product lifecycle. In order to create traceability in the fashion supply chain, the use of Blockchain technology has grown recently, as it creates a transparent platform for all stakeholders to access at all points of the supply chain, and holds each unit of the supply chain to account. Blockchain also allows the end consumer to see the journey each of their products has made, which helps gain trust with your brand. Creating relationships with each member of your supply chain also enables you to build trust, which can lead to better efficiency and flexibility from your factory partners in the future.

Making the decision to take ownership and accountability over the whole lifecycle of your product enables you to reduce the risk of modern slavery and devastating factory events, and can open up opportunities for collaboration, improvement, innovation and cost savings in the future.

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Picking up the scraps: The companies leading waste minimisation

  • Design
  • January 23, 2020
  • Findlay Buchanan
Picking up the scraps: The companies leading waste minimisation

In New Zealand, we discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year, an absurd amount for a small, agrarian, country at the bottom of the earth. Partly, the problem lies in our recycling systems – only a meager 28 percent of it is recycled. But, new radical solutions are being developed, we’ve already transformed water bottles into asphalt, plastic bags into clothes, and roofing into pavements. Plus, a company in the states, Joachim’s firm, plans to build a 53-story tower made with the waste, a vision for tall buildings and skyscrapers that could be made of plastic.

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2020 vision: What 2020 means for Dargaville retailers

  • News
  • January 22, 2020
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
2020 vision: What 2020 means for Dargaville retailers

In the final installation of our series looking at retail in seven New Zealand regions, we're examining Dargaville.

Read more
 
 

Container Door fined $54,000 over non-compliant bicycles

  • News
  • January 21, 2020
  • The Register team
Container Door fined $54,000 over non-compliant bicycles

Ecommerce retailer Container Door has fallen afoul of the Commerce Commission after supplying pedal bicycles which did not meet mandatory product safety standards.

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2020 vision: How Cambridge retail will perform this year

  • News
  • January 21, 2020
  • Rachel Helyer Donaldson
2020 vision: How Cambridge retail will perform this year

As part of a series looking at seven regional centres to consider what regional retail looks like this year, we're considering Cambridge.

Read more
 
 

Steve Mills becomes Countdown's new GM of Merchandise

  • Who's Where
  • January 21, 2020
  • Makayla Wallace-Tidd
Steve Mills becomes Countdown's new GM of Merchandise

Countdown has announced Steve Mills as the new general manager of merchandise.

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Larger retailers to discuss key issues in Retail NZ’s new group

  • News
  • January 20, 2020
  • The Register team
Larger retailers to discuss key issues in Retail NZ’s new group

Retail NZ is launching a new Leading Retailers’ Group for large and significant retailers. With its first meeting to be held in late February, the group will provide a safe outlet for senior retailers to discuss issues affecting the sector.

Read more
 
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