Fake Fur Vs Real Fur: The Supply Chain Visibility Problem

Boohoo has hit the headlines recently for selling jumpers that contained real fur but were advertised as faux fur. Following testing, they removed the product from sale, however Boohoo are not the only brand who have been associated with inadvertently mislabelling items. Just last year TK Maxx, Amazon, Boots, Kurt Geiger and Tesco were also implicated in similar incidents.

In response, the advertising Watchdog have declared a crackdown on retailers making false claims in their advertising and labelling. They have issued an enforcement notice in which online sellers and retailers had until yesterday, February 11th, to carry out tests and checks or they risk being reported to trading standards.

Boohoo stated that they have robust policies and procedures in place to prevent real fur being sold in their products. The Advertising Standard Agency have said they do not believe retailers are deliberately misleading consumers and have blamed ‘’supplier pollution’’. However, The Committees of Advertising Practice have said that brands should be checking supply chains.  This all calls into question whether retailers have enough transparency to ensure that they know all the suppliers in their entire chain, in order to avoid instances like this occurring.

With the six-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster approaching in April, it is a poignant time for people to be asking if not knowing who is in your supply chain is acceptable? After all, most of the brands being supplied did not know their products were produced in that building but six years on transparency should no longer be an issue.

What damage can supply chain visibility issues have on businesses?

With supply chains being so complex brands can feel they cannot control the provenance of products.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International UK, told The Telegraph:

The companies falling foul of the ‘fake faux fur’ scandal are often as horrified as their shoppers when we alert them to it, but it’s sadly an all too common mistake as companies don’t always have the right safeguards in place to keep real fur out of their supply chains. 

When brands claim to be undertaking ethical and sustainable business practices and then they, or their suppliers, are found to be doing otherwise, they risk brand damage. Consumers can lose trust in the brand and shop elsewhere if they feel that they are being misled; ultimately having a direct effect on the business’s success and profits.

In January 2018, Boots were found to be selling hair pins with real fur pompoms, leading consumers to take to social media and complain. After testing the product, they found it was actually real fur. Boots removed the product from the shelf and offered refunds, but the damage to their reputation had already occurred. Boots went on to comment that they had assurances from a trusted supplier that the fur was faux.

With today’s technology that provide undisputed supply chain transparency through real time data this can be avoided.

The solution to lack of transparency in the supply chain

Brands and retailers need to provide consumers with the transparency required to make informed decisions.

The solution is clear, retailers must act responsibly and take control of their supply chains by gaining full visibility right back to the provenance of the product. Often, the first-tier suppliers are known, but this is where the transparency ends and the retailer has little to no transparency or control over who is supplying them further down the chain. With technology, big data and ever improving analytic tools, it is possible to measure and manage the entire supply chain.

If retailers have a platform like Segura, that can show the provenance of all their components, they can ensure that no unauthorised subcontracting is occurring and be confident there is no real fur in their chain.  This level of transparency can ensure that their brand image is protected.

In recent years, there has been an increase in consumers actively looking to work with brands that are ethical and sourcing sustainably. If retailers are seen to be transparent and open about their supply chain it will increase customer loyalty and no doubt gain them new customers.