Company, Product, Supply Chain: Where to set your priorities?

April 2, 2024

The landscape of fashion is evolving, and so are the expectations that come with it. As the demand for sustainable options has surged and regulatory bodies are tightening their grip on the sector's practices, fashion brands are recognising the importance of building a sustainability strategy.

In this article, we will guide fashion brands through the complexities of building a solid and effective sustainability strategy focusing on the following key areas:

  • Importance of adopting a comprehensive approach when designing a sustainability strategy
  • Importance of collaborating with suppliers to collect primary data to ensure a more authentic representation of a product's environmental impact
  • How to assess suppliers’ impacts and conducting a lifecycle assessment allowing brands to evaluate their scope 3, or indirect emission
  • Benefits and importance of using digital and specialized tools to easily access accurate data that allows brands to scale sustainability effort

The Evolution of Sustainability in Fashion 

The need for change in fashion has been fuelled by a growing awareness of environmental issues, ethical consumerism, and regulatory frameworks such as the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) that triggered the adoption of carbon accounting practices to report on their corporate carbon emissions (above other ESG aspects).

This initial focus on Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions (a company’s direct emissions) was a pivotal step, prompting brands to begin to evaluate their environmental impact together with financial performances. 

However, things are changing and the scope is now expanding beyond a singular focus on carbon and direct emissions to a comprehensive strategy that encompasses products' lifecycle impacts throughout the entire supply chain with a growing focus on Scope 3 (or supply chain) impacts. 

Focus: Supply chain, Product and Company Sustainability 

When defining areas for a solid and effective sustainability strategy there are three main areas and steps to focus on:

  1. Supply Chain
  2. Product
  3. Company 

1. Supply Chain: From Primary Data Collection to Supplier ESG Management 

In creating a sustainability strategy, fashion brands must prioritize the acquisition of primary environmental data to ensure accuracy. At Sustainable Brand Platform we play a key role in facilitating this by making it easy for brands and manufacturers to share data via our platform.

An example is our collaboration with Yamamay and their supplier Eurojersey, who leveraged our platform to collect and exchange primary data from their supply chain to measure the impacts of the products made with Eurojersey fabrics.

Eurojersey collected primary data regarding internal processes related to Yamamay's Sensitive® leggings sculpt, this included metrics on electricity, heat, waste, wastewater, and chemicals, calculating the specific emission factors for each step.

The results were then used to measure the impact of Yamamay's Sensitive® Leggings Sculpt accurately, ensuring precise and reliable product environmental footprint calculations. Read more about it here.

While secondary data collection takes less effort at the beginning of the process, primary data collection ensures a more authentic representation of a product's environmental impact, reinforcing the credibility of sustainability initiatives in the fashion industry.

Beyond primary data collection, at Sustainable Brand Platform we provide fashion brands with tools to analyze and assess their suppliers comprehensively and full ESG Management Assessment. 

From raw material extraction to manufacturing processes, brands can evaluate suppliers' ESG performance and track their progress over time. This approach enables brands to identify areas for improvement, map supply chain risk, and foster collaboration with suppliers committed to shared sustainability goals.

2. Product: Improvements with Product Lifecycle Assessment

For fashion companies, like most consumer goods, most of the impact is represented by product manufacturing and commercialization. Therefore, an effective sustainability strategy requires a detailed analysis of products’ life cycle impacts. We emphasize the importance of conducting a Product Lifecycle Assessment (LCA), which can comprehensively evaluate a product's environmental impact. 

This entails evaluating the environmental impact of a product from its creation to its end-of-life, considering factors such as raw materials, manufacturing processes, and transportation. By identifying hotspots and areas for improvement, brands can assess a product’s footprint and gain actionable insights they can use to implement meaningful reductions.

This is crucial as it’s estimated that over 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are determined during the design phase (EU Science Hub). Therefore, conducting an LCA study on most, if not all, products will be the key to enabling a scalable sustainability strategy.

3. Company: Assessing Environmental Impacts and Carbon Emissions

Once you’ve assessed your suppliers’ impacts and conducted a life cycle analysis,  you have fully evaluated Scope 3 emissions, the indirect impacts of your company. Now, the only piece left to address is your direct emissions.

While less relevant than scope 3 in absolute terms, scope 1 and 2 emissions (impacts) are easier for companies to address. Whether through energy efficiency initiatives, shared and electric mobility, or green energy procurement, companies can quickly move from planning to acting and achieve important reduction figures in a relatively short amount of time. 

Scaling Sustainability Efforts: A New Approach to Sustainability Data Management

We believe in the power of technology to facilitate sustainability in fashion. As sustainability efforts expand, the need for scalable and timely solutions becomes paramount. 

By embracing a data-driven approach and adopting digital tools that are intuitive and comprehensive, brands can turn sustainability data from a burden to added value and ensure that they cover the largest scope possible to allow for industry alignment and measurement consistency. 

In an industry that changes face every 6 months, we can no longer work with outdated sustainability data collected once a year and reported at least 18-24 months after the impact happened.

Simplifying sustainability with accurate data and digital tools

Building a solid and effective sustainability strategy requires a holistic approach encompassing the supply chain, product lifecycle, and overall company impacts. 

At Sustainable Brand Platform we recognise the need for digital and specialized tools tailored to the unique challenges of the fashion industry. From Supplier ESG management to carbon footprint calculation, our platform is user-friendly and designed to streamline the sustainability journey, facilitating decision-making and allowing for scalability.

In a landscape where data integrity is paramount, our platform ensures that brands have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information they need to make informed decisions and demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability. 

By embracing a data-driven approach, fashion brands can redefine their priorities and focus on measurable and impactful strategies that can transform their supply chains into transparent and sustainable ecosystems.

As fashion brands define their priorities, we stand as a partner providing the necessary tools and expertise to navigate the complexities of this journey. 

Ready to build your solid sustainability strategy backed by science? Get in touch with us!

Gaia Rattazzi
Gaia is a content creator from Italy and former SBP team member. She passionately advocates for sustainable and ethical fashion and writes for several fashion industry-related media with a solution-focused approach.

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