As sustainability becomes more and more important to consumers when making decisions about which companies to support and products to purchase, many industries are being forced to make huge strides in their green initiatives to maintain and court customers. The fashion industry in particular has come under fire in recent years for its wasteful and polluting practices.

However, there are options for fashion companies who wish to reduce their waste and become more sustainable. Utilising the strength of an end-to-end, integrated logistics partner can provide transparency and reliability for sustainable fashion supply chains. In turn, this greater visibility can empower fashion companies to reduce waste – meeting the needs of their customers and increasing loyalty for generations to come.

Consumers Demand Greener Solutions

The Global Sustainability Study of 2021, with responses of over 10,000 individuals across 17 countries has shown a paradigm shift in consumers' purchasing decisions. Most strikingly, consumers see themselves, in tandem with for-profit companies, as the primary catalysts for change in sustainability.

The study, conducted by global strategy consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners, saw that when customers see themselves as the agents for change, they themselves change their behaviors accordingly. In fact, 85% of respondents indicated that within the last five years they have shifted their purchasing behavior to be more sustainable. This awareness, and sense of responsibility from the consumer, means that they are in turn demanding more from the businesses and products they support.

The relative importance of sustainability during the purchase process will continue to increase. Today, 50 percent of consumers rank sustainability as a top five value driver. As expectations around sustainability climb, companies will face significant pressure to prove their sustainability credentials and continue to make it a central part of their value proposition.

Dr. Andreas von der Gathen,
co-CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners

A New Generation of Sustainable Customers

With this shift in consumer spending, it is easy to see why investing in sustainable solutions would be more profitable in the long run. Companies that prioritise sustainability will see an increase in sustainability-minded consumers, a sector that will only continue to grow as younger generations grow older.

Millennials and Gen Z are becoming a force to be reckoned with as they continue to represent a larger share of the consumer demographic. Companies that don’t have sustainability as part of their core value proposition need to act now to protect against future reputational impacts and loss of market share...the clock is ticking and failure to think through the implications could have long-term consequences.

Shikha Jain,
Author of the Global Sustainability Study 2021

These upcoming generations are demanding more, and the companies that transform to become more sustainable and have less negative impact on the environment, will grow in these changing times.

Pressure for Sustainable Change

One industry that has been under pressure to become more sustainable in recent years is the fashion industry. With the rapid changing of fashion trends, we have seen overproduction and waste within the industry. McKinsey & Company reports that the number of fashion garments produced each year has doubled since 2000, and since 2014, production has exceeded 100 billion garments per year. This high volume of production leads to an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste annually, the equivalent of one garbage truck worth of textiles every second.

With greater awareness of these issues, consumers and sustainable players within the industry have demanded sustainable change. But how can fashion companies reduce waste while meeting their customers’ expectations for on-trend clothing?

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Rolls of unused textiles

Reducing Fashion Supply Chain Overproduction

One key way for fashion companies to become more sustainable while continuing to meet consumer demand is to reduce overproduction. Overproduction can occur when fashion companies do not have good visibility within their supply chain. However, this overproduction can easily be mitigated by the visibility provided by digital tracking solutions.

When fashion companies do not have good visibility within their supply chain, it is easy for them to overproduce in an effort to make sure that their stores have the stock that they need; especially when their shipments experience disruptions or delays. Digitalisation, such as chip following in garment tags, can ensure greater visibility -- allowing fashion companies to see exactly where their products are and when they will arrive. This overview will allow for more sustainable fashion supply chains, as there will be no need to overproduce even when shipments run late.

Visibility in Sustainable Fashion Supply Chains

Additionally, there are numerous solutions that allow fashion companies to manage their cargo flow in line with their demand patterns. This means that fashion companies can have greater control over their supply chains, warehousing their products close to key markets until the time is right to roll out a new collection. Conversely, visibility would allow companies to pivot their goods -- responding to consumer demands accordingly and bringing deadstock from one location to a different market for reduced waste, allowing for unpopular items in one region to be brought to the interested buyers in another.

Visibility solutions allow for a more sustainable fashion supply chain in that companies have the transparency to know what to make, when to make it, where to send it, and when. This will reduce waste greatly and allow the company as a whole to be far more sustainable. This investment in a more sustainable fashion supply chain will not only benefit the company with reduced costs on wasted and destroyed products, but also in staying up to date with consumer demand.

An Opportunity for Growth

While fashion companies have experienced unprecedented production in recent years due to ever-quickening trend cycles, the industry is seeing increased pressure to become more sustainable. Companies that move quickly to implement a sustainable fashion supply chain will be able to use this customer demand to grow, as illustrated by the findings in the Global Sustainability Report 2021.

A substantial portion of consumers are currently willing to pay for sustainability, demonstrating that there is a market for ‘mission-driven green’ companies...however, as demand grows for sustainable products they become the expectation rather than the exception. Companies must invest, innovate, and transform their business models now to protect their long-term profitability and viability.

Shikha Jain,
Author of the Global Sustainability Study 2021

As sustainability grows increasingly important to consumers, fashion companies must look to visibility solutions to reduce waste and overproduction and create sustainable fashion supply chains. The transparency provided by tracking and digitalisation will allow fashion companies to manage the flow of their products like never before, gaining the trust of customers for now and for generations to come.

This investment in sustainability will create a lasting and positive experience for the customer, the company, and most importantly, the environment.

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