The fashion industry is facing a wave of legislation. In the next five years, ambitious lawmakers in the EU, U.S. and UK will require fashion companies to track, measure and report on a wide range of social and environmental issues, from forced labor to deforestation and beyond. For TrusTrace's Traceability Roadmap, we spoke to Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, Chair of Policy Hub and co-founder of 2BPolicy, who shared his advice and insights into the legislative landscape to help fashion companies stay one step ahead of incoming laws.
Few businesses are ready to take the necessary steps towards compliance, says Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, chair of Policy Hub, an organization that represents the apparel and footwear industry to propose policies around sustainability and circularity.
“Too many brands wait until the ink is dry on regulations before they do anything, and that’s where the problem lies,” he says. “Very few brands want to anticipate regulations, but we can already anticipate the majority of the data points that they need to capture.”
Some industries face one major challenge — the aviation industry is primarily concerned with decarbonization, for example — but fashion faces a variety of issues.
“While talking to major brands, many of them are members of tens or hundreds of initiatives focusing on forced labor, child labor, living wages, health and safety, carbon, water, ocean waste plastics, you name it,” says Carriere-Pradal. “This is an industry that has so many challenges to tackle with so few means. The reality is however that with the available means and time, we won’t be able to solve everything in the next 5 to 10 years. We need to prioritize, then brands should have a phased approach to data collection depending on identified risks and legislation.”
So where should brands focus their attention? Carriere-Pradal says there are four requirements that brands should be prioritizing. “The first element brands will have to disclose is their scope 3 emissions,” he says. “To have a fair approximation of this, you need to know your materials mix and the country of origin of this raw material.” Next are requirements for deforestation and forced labor. “For both of these, the primary information required is the exact origin of a good. In the case of deforestation, you need to know the origin of the hides you import. Then, you need to be able to trace the origin of all your risky raw materials given the forced labor regulations.”
While some of these requirements won’t be implemented for a few years, Carriere-Pradal says that brands should start collecting a wide range of information from suppliers now to anticipate future regulations. “It’s easier to gather a lot of primary data and then you can improve over time,” he says. “The issue here is that if you’re too selective, you might have blind spots.”
Undoubtedly, partnering with a traceability solution provider is the only way to gather and sort the scale of data needed to meet these requirements. “A brand wouldn’t have the capacity to do this alone because it requires a huge amount of effort. You need to have a traceability solution to do this work,” says Carriere-Pradal. “It’s complicated, yes. But it’s manageable. You need to be able to understand the complexity of the issue at hand to be able to implement a proper solution.”
He believes that brands must invest heavily in building robust sustainability teams staffed with experts who have the budget and support from key stakeholders to make rapid progress. “In the past and still today, sustainability teams are a ‘nice to have’ for many brands.
“But they tend to be systematically underfunded, under-resourced, and the staff are stretched,” says Carriere-Pradal. “When you have one person leading ‘decarbonization’ for a full company, with a limited budget, what is exactly the expected output?”
Carriere-Pradal’s final message for the industry is a word of warning: “You are likely to overspend millions on fast-tracked solutions if you don’t anticipate the impact of the data that will go public on your shareholders, customers, and stakeholders.”
“Companies need to anticipate upcoming legislation, work with their peers, identify adequate solution providers, and develop a compliance road map to allow a smooth transition from an unregulated sustainability strategy to a fully regulated one.”
This story is an excerpt from the Traceability Roadmap, TrusTrace's step-by-step guide to implementing traceability in fashion supply chains. Read the full report here.
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