The manufacturer that supplied your brand’s latest order of shirts may well have been thoroughly audited, checked for health and safety regulations, and made to provide employees with a living wage and legal shift patterns. Good news! But if you want to offer your customers an ethically sound wardrobe, there’s still a very long way to go to ensure that your ethical supply chain strategies are watertight.
Ready-to-wear, or prêt-à-porter, clothing refers to all factory-made garments sold in a finished condition, ready to be purchased ‘off the peg’. The rise of fast fashion means that retailers are constantly seeking the speedy production of the latest ‘micro-trends’ and celebrity-endorsed styles to sell in their stores. Standardised patterns, mass production and mechanised construction techniques all work to keep costs low. However, attentive production tracking can get lost by the wayside.
A recent academic article, Improving Social compliance in Bangladesh's Ready-made Garment Industry, cites the fact that over 75% of Bangladesh’s export earnings come from the garment industry, with the ready-made garment (RMG) sector representing their key export industry. RMG exports were worth an incredible $17.9 billion (£10.7 billion) in the fiscal year 2010-2011, and are primarily sold to retailers in the US and EU. But do consumers in these developed countries know where their clothes really come from?
Supply chain strategies falter due to cut-price outsourcing
A recent article in Vogue looked back on the Rana Plaza tragedy and discussed the efforts required to identify the brands working with the factory. Primark was first to admit ties, having got a tight handle on its production tracking following previous publicity disasters. However, numerous other brands had difficulty, or showed reluctance, in disclosing their links to Rana Plaza. Had their supply chain strategies failed them?
High street retailers place orders with a garment manufacturer for ready-to-wear apparel. After confirming sample pieces and negotiating prices and deadlines for orders, the manufacturers are often simply left to their own devices, without the retailer enforcing any kind of production tracking system. This allows the manufacturer the opportunity to outsource certain elements of production to cut costs and make higher profits, while secondary suppliers go unchecked.
With only an overview of the final product to go on, secondary supply chains can remain a complete mystery to the retailer. When it comes to obtaining raw materials, buttons, trims and tags, manufacturers could outsource the work to almost any supplier in the world, and the retailer would have no idea.
The importance of diligent production tracking
There are some fears about price hikes associated with ethical supply chain strategies, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Consumer consciousness is increasing, and ethically responsible fashion lines such as H&M's Conscious Collection and ASOS’s Green Room keep popping up. In the future, it looks likely that supply chain ethics will be practised by the majority rather than minority, and it’s far better for a brand’s production tracking systems to be setting the trend rather than falling behind
Segura Production Tracking systems give retailers full visibility over their entire supply chain, confirming that every aspect of production meets pre-defined ethical and quality standards. Manufacturers are presented with a selection of authorised suppliers, and retailers are alerted to any non-compliance with the list, or partial ordering which would imply that they are also sourcing products elsewhere. You can manage and track all orders through a single platform, making your supply chain strategies completely transparent and utterly accountable. Contact us today if you’d like to find out more.
Originally published 11/04/2014