Sustainability is a growing concern not just in fashion, but in all consumer-facing industries. It matters to everyone: brands, consumers, and investors alike, but it’s also a loaded term that means different things to different people. Despite the wide range of issues and opinions, sustainability is an increasingly important consideration in any business plan for fashion.
Globally, more than 70% of consumers say they’re willing to change their habits to reduce their personal environmental impact, and this includes the brands and products they buy. Social responsibility is also an important concern. Total “sustainable spending” is forecast to reach more than $150 billion per year by 2021.
However, as always, there is a balancing act between the most idealistic visions and the practical realities of meeting customers’ expectations in a competitive marketplace. An analysis of relevant surveys by eMarketer pointed out that although sustainability is definitely trending—especially among millennials and younger consumers—shoppers are still much more focused on the fundamental concerns of design and value.
This means the real challenge is for brands to reduce waste, energy use, and other environmental and social impacts in a way that supports their core mission and make their operations more efficient, rather than more expensive.
Social and Environmental Impacts Are Focused in Supply Chains
The environmental dimension of sustainable fashion has relatively straightforward goals: reducing waste and sourcing materials in ways that limit environmental impacts. These goals also have clear benefits from a business perspective; increasing efficiency also improves profits. However, sustainability is also about the livelihoods of the tens of millions of people who work in fashion supply chains.
Brands have every reason to be concerned about whether the labor that produces their goods is sustainable. Not only is it an ethical issue—it also has practical, bottom-line impacts. Morale and job satisfaction on the shop floor can have a direct effect on the quality and consistency of production, which in turn effects profitability and material use.
The raw materials and human labor that go into fashion merchandise are concentrated in the supply chain, far away from the retail shops and corporate offices where demand is generated and resources are allocated. In many cases, brand leaders lack the visibility and control to identify and implement effective sustainability initiatives.
As fashion supply chains have become increasingly globalized and complex, companies have struggled to implement the right tools to manage product development and manufacturing efficiently. Unfortunately, many companies are still relying on aging enterprise systems or an ad-hoc mix of email, spreadsheets, and text documents to manage product development and manufacturing.
How Exenta Can Help Your Brand Be More Sustainable
Exenta provides a comprehensive set of tools for managing fashion supply chains that help promote sustainability and efficiency on the shop floor. Our solutions are currently enhancing the lives and livelihoods of more than 40,000 users worldwide, while helping brands reduce material waste and improve efficiency in all aspects of product development and manufacturing.
Respect is one of our core values as a company, and we recognize that the people who work in supply chains play an essential role in getting products on store shelves and generating successful business growth. That’s why we’re committed to providing solutions that support positive relationships based on mutual transparency and trust.
Sustainability issues will continue to rise in importance as younger generations become a larger force in the market for apparel and other fashion merchandise. A recent Nielson survey found that strong majorities of U.S. millennials say they’re willing to pay more for products that are environmentally friendly (90%) or socially responsible (80%). As these conscious consumers continue to drive a greater share of spending, brands will need to meet an expansive set of expectations that includes sustainability alongside traditional concerns of style and price.
Contact Exenta to find out how we can help you with this balancing act.