August 2, 2023
The recent 2023 AAFA Traceability & Sustainability Conference in Boston, MA brought together top apparel brands and industry leaders to address pressing challenges and opportunities in the realms of traceability and sustainability. Several key themes emerged from the discussions, highlighting the shared commitment to driving positive change in the fashion and apparel industry. Here were some of the top themes and challenges from this year’s AAFA Traceability & Sustainability Conference:
- Embracing Change and Taking Action: A prevailing sentiment throughout the conference by apparel leaders was the acknowledgment that no single entity has all the answers when it comes to traceability and sustainability. However, they all recognized the urgency of the global challenges, such as the climate crisis, and assuring goods aren’t produced with forced labor. Attendees emphasized the importance of taking the first steps towards meaningful action. Brands were encouraged not to remain "stuck" but to actively embrace innovation and drive transformative change.
- Unity in Addressing Global Challenges: Speakers emphasized the need for collective effort in tackling sustainability challenges. Brands, solution providers, regulatory bodies, and all stakeholders must collaborate and unite in their pursuit of traceability and sustainability. Recognizing that "We are all in this together" became a central theme, highlighting the significance of industry-wide cooperation for achieving positive outcomes.
- Regulations and Environmental Responsibility: The impact of sustainability-related legislation was a key topic of discussion, such as the proposed EU Product Passport1. Governments at both the national and state levels are introducing regulations to enhance environmental responsibility, and it was widely agreed that such legislation will continue to increase and evolve over time. Brands must adapt and make significant changes to comply with emerging sustainability requirements, making environmental responsibility a fundamental aspect of their business strategies.
- Strategically Addressing the Issues: Addressing sustainability initiatives requires a strategic approach that goes beyond concentrating solely on unfinished fiber and product accountability. Brands shared their challenges in traceability, particularly when tracking beyond their tier 1 suppliers. Industry experts recommended utilizing multiple vendors as no single entity possesses the capability to handle the entire traceability process. Additionally, brands were encouraged to learn from other industries that have successfully implemented traceability initiatives, such as healthcare, drug, and food.
- Tracing Beyond Tier 1 Suppliers: Brands expressed difficulties in tracing beyond their tier 1 suppliers. Even though Brands are aware of current and potential global legislation surrounding material origins, like the Uygur Act2, finding effective solutions that encompass the entire supply chain remains a challenge.
- Compliance with Sustainability Regulations: The evolving landscape of sustainability-related legislation requires brands to make significant changes to comply with emerging requirements. Ensuring product claims are verified and meeting environmental standards are critical areas of focus.
- Managing Scope 3 Emissions: Brands must factor Scope 3 emissions into their supply chain management to account for the environmental impact of their entire value chain. This is challenging for brands as a Deloitte survey found that while companies are prepared to report their Scope 1 or Scope 2 emissions, a vast majority (86%) reported challenges measuring Scope 3 GHG emission3.
- Eliminating Harmful Chemicals: PFAS, which can lead to harmful exposures has been found in a variety of everyday garments such as rain jackets, hiking pants, shirts and yoga pants4. The industry has committed to consumer safety and environmental health involves eliminating harmful substances, such as PFAS and other "forever chemicals," from products.
- Promoting Recycling: Brands are working towards creating easily recyclable products and providing access to recycling facilities to encourage responsible consumer behavior. In fact, some brands are starting to offer upcycled clothing as a commitment to sustainability and circular fashion5.
Despite the challenges, everyone seemed optimistic about the future. Attendees shared their confidence in discussing success stories of traceability and sustainability within the industry in the coming years. By coming together, learning from other leaders, and embracing change, we can pave the way for positive transformations in the apparel sector and beyond. As the industry continues to evolve, brands are turning to Infor Nexus to support their sustainability and traceability initiatives. Infor Nexus™ is a world leading multi-enterprise supply chain business network that address the industry's pressing needs, such as supply chain transparency, compliance, and sustainable practices. By leveraging Infor Nexus, brands can enhance their supply chain visibility, streamline compliance efforts, and foster sustainability initiatives, ultimately, Infor Nexus provides a multitude of ways for supply chain leaders to tackle the sustainability initiatives while improving business performances, which you can read more about in this article. Interested in learning more about Infor Nexus sustainability initiatives? Connect with us below!