Transparency in the Textile Industry

transparency in the fashion industry

Transparency in the apparel and textile industry has been a trending topic of discussion. It is the process of allowing consumers to see what goes into the production process of the clothes and shoes they buy. Transparency is becoming a huge movement due to a various number of reasons. Looking at a poll taken by Sourcing Journal about the importance of transparency and why is it trending, 85% percent of surveyors believe that transparency in the industry is extremely important.

Why Transparency is Trending

 There are many arguments about why transparency is critical to the industry, the most common is attracting and retaining customers. This generation of consumers wants to know what they are spending money on and where it is coming from. They want not only authenticity but also to know their products are ethical and safe for the environment. Especially millennials, as they start to be more prevalent in the marketplace than baby boomers, they are more environmentally and socially conscious than other demographics.

Another reason transparency is becoming a large movement is that it makes it easier for brands to police the practices of their supply chain partners. This is hopefully to put an end to unethical practices in the production process. It also reduces company risk, and it’s good for business. People being educated on who is making their clothing allows them to make more informed decisions when deciding to purchase an article of clothing.

Transparency and Sustainability

Transparency is increasingly becoming interconnected with sustainability. There are four main themes that seem are presenting when discussing the link of transparency to sustainability.

Raising Accountability

Many people believe that transparency is being pushed to ensure that supply chain partners are more accountable. Greater transparency in the industry will require businesses to be accountable for their environmental impacts and employee working conditions. This will also allow a way for consumers to see if the claims businesses make or true or false.

Protecting the Brand

The second theme linking accountability and sustainability is protecting the brand. With greater transparency, the brand will be protected from false claims of child labor or environmentally harmful production processes. The brand will be completely exposed in all its operations thus protecting itself from any misleading claims.

Educating Consumers

Making sure consumers are educated allows them to make informed decisions about the clothing they are buying. They will be more likely to support companies if they knew the process that went into the clothing and shoes they are purchasing. It also builds customer loyalty and trust. Being open about the operations a brand is performing can help settle some uneasiness consumers have about purchasing clothing and not knowing its origins.

Ensure Continuation of Progress

Lastly, the two are believed to be linked to ensure progress continues. Only with transparency, is it possible to ensure the continuation of improving the sustainability footprint continues. Knowing everything about the production process will help consumers push for continuous improvement of sustainability in the industry.

The Challenges

The major tradeoff companies are facing is cheap prices or sustainability and transparency. However, being transparent will come at increased costs which are causing the sector to be conflicted with aware and conscious consumers and retailers attempting to survive to still provide good price and availability to its consumers. Retailers are unsure whether this is just the current industry trend and if customers are really invested in transparency and sustainability. They are on the fence about whether the decision to spend more money to become transparent will be beneficial to the company in the long term and not just the short term. They are concerned that this is an industry trend that will eventually die down.

Culture, location, and values are additional factors that contribute to the various response received from suppliers on the topic of transparency. Many suppliers and brands believe that being transparent will result in the exposure of vital company secrets. On top of all this, there is not much faith in the industry that transparency will successfully be achieved. With 70% of the industry having little to no confidence in the level of transparency that will be obtained in the industry, the process to become transparent is already at a disadvantage.

The New Normal

In order for transparency to become successful in the industry, it is important to it becomes the new normal. Brands and suppliers have to change their thinking to see transparency as the norm rather than going above and beyond. This will require pressure from consumers and profit loss as a result of the lack of being transparent. A factor that is a very threatening factor to the brands. Many brands are nervous to discuss their progress for fear of being called out for other parts of their process. However, consumers are more interested in progress than perfection. Consumers would rather know the positives and negatives about the processes a product they are purchasing goes through. This will help consumers see whether brands are simply just releasing a few products to the press, but not actually enough to make an actual difference.

Steps Toward Progress

Transparency can be combatted by creating a need for more government involvement in labeling and certifications. More than two-thirds of companies are already pushing transparent initiatives. Another 15 percent are planning on doing so in the future. Many brands are starting to only do business with suppliers that are already engaged in the movement in some way. And while there is much work to be done in order to create a transparent and sustainable industry, the industry is taking baby steps in the right direction.

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