October 2, 2014

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MADE-BY hosted a free, invite-only event, bringing 100 participants together to share best practices and to build knowledge. This year, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary at the atmospheric Tobacco Theater in Amsterdam. The day was a great opportunity to celebrate the positive developments within the field of sustainability and fashion and to reflect on the two main themes: the impacts and benefits of transparency and supply chain visibility in the fashion industry. To recap on the event’s discussions, we have produced this blog, to provide a summary of the day’s key takeaways.

Take a look at the event’s Storify page for more information.

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Celebrating 10 years of MADE-BY

Opening the day’s event, MADE-BY’s CEO Allanna McAspurn, reflected on the last ten years activities in the sustainability field, “When I started in sustainability there wasn’t much confidence, now it’s becoming mainstream”. Allanna went on to discuss the issue of transparency and how to build this into public communication. Nico Roozen, Director of Solidaridad and founder of MADE-BY, came on to the stage and looked back to MADE-BY’s beginnings, back in 2004. He commented on the positive progress that MADE-BY has made since its launch towards ‘making sustainable fashion common practice’.


Supply chains in an age of transparency

Kilian Moote, VP of Not for Sale

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Kilian kicked off the day’s discussions with an insightful presentation on how increased connectivity and legislative change are re-shaping how we understand and address forced labour. Currently 21-30 million people are estimated to be living in slavery. Through technological advances such as the internet and regulation that requires information beyond direct suppliers, such as the California Transparency act, Kilian argued that we are gaining better understanding of the sheer size of the problem. Kilian went on to use the idea of a ‘transparency meme’ as a way to illustrate the point that ideas self replicate. Once an idea gets used in one form, e.g. legislation, they go on to be used elsewhere. The point being that transparency legislation is likely to spread. To address the issues and emerging trends, Kilian reasoned that business needs to undergo a transformative response, gaining leadership support and management buy-in. Kilian added that businesses need to embrace a dynamic strategy that favours honesty and progress over supply chain perfection. Kilian concluded by asking the audience ‘if you started today, what would you do different’.


Launch of MODE Tracker and new Wet Processing Benchmark

After the break MADE-BY was proud to launch our Wet Processing Benchmark, which uses actual data from factories around the world to bring transparency and drive change. It illustrates the sustainability of common wet processing techniques and applications in terms of water use, energy use and potential chemical or safety hazards.

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We then launched our updated Scorecard system, MODE Tracker. MODE Tracker is a progress tool, developed to support brands in ‘Making Clear Progress’. The Tracker enables fashion professionals to create a roadmap to engage on key social and environmental issues, it also allows them to demonstrate their improvements and communicate these actions effectively.

Learn more about MODE Tracker, by viewing our ‘explainer’ video.


Sustainability in the footwear industry

The buzz of shared knowledge continued in the afternoon, after a busy networking session at lunchtime, with Galahad Clark, a six generation shoe maker, providing a personal account of his journey understanding and developing more sustainable shoes. As founder of Vivobarefoot, he spoke on the challenges they faced and steps they took to ensure the brand retained a sustainable ethos.

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THE BREAKOUTS

Following Galahad’s talk, MADE-BY hosted three breakout sessions outlining sustainability issues around the product itself with a focus on integrating more sustainable fibres and wet processing, the social issues in the apparel supply chains and the importance of brand control over the manufacturing process.

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Social: Current issues and practical solutions

Martin Buttle, Principal Consultant, MADE-BY, with Maximilian Martin, Founder, Impact Economy and Kilian Moote, Vice President, Not for Sale.

This session brought together speakers from the private and NGO sector with the aim to explore the current pressing social and transparency issues affecting apparel supply chains. It spurred an engaging conversation between fashion brands, retailers, NGOs and government on the different means to improve social and working conditions in the industry and emphasised the need for transparency in order to identify and mitigate potential risks from an increasingly fragmented global apparel supply chain. Coupled with these complex and changing issues, new legislation is exercising pressure on corporations to act responsibly and make supply chain data available.

It was suggested that impact investment could provide a solution to the perennial lack of capital and outdated manufacturing infrastructures, which would ultimately result in better working conditions and efficiency gains for companies. The room concluded that the first steps towards transparency will have to be scaled up to bring about positive systemic improvements.

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Product: Improving product safety

Karin Reimerink, Principal Consultant, MADE-BY, with Susan Irvine, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Tommy Hilfiger Europe and Elin Larsson, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Filippa K.

This session sought to explore what exactly is a ‘sustainable product’, what are the key factors to ensure a successful integration of sustainability at product level and what tools are out there to help brands on that journey.

The discussion highlighted the importance of a sustainable product as a key element to any sustainability strategy, and from the examples and case studies given it became clear that for this to be successful, buy-in and drive within a company’s senior management is needed. This in turn would require systematic adoption throughout the organisation if it is to be a long term success, in parallel with a robust data management system to gain visibility throughout the supply chain. It became apparent during discussion that a key intervention for many brands moving towards more sustainable products was the integration of sustainable cotton. It provides a means for many brands in the early stages of developing a sustainable fibre strategy to make notable improvements to the overall impact of their collection, as cotton is often a dominant fibre in many brands fibre mix.

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Manufacturing – Reducing environmental impact

Ariel Kraten, Senior Consultant, MADE-BY joined by Janet Mensink, Programme Coordinator Textiles & Cotton, Solidaridad.

Many brands aspire to create products with a minimal environmental impact, but find it challenging to understand—let alone address—issues such as water and energy efficiency and chemical use. This session, sought to explore the questions that brands may face when working to achieve more sustainable manufacturing.

This session featured the IDH-funded Bangladesh Partnership for Cleaner Textiles Programme (PaCT) as an example of a best practice-level programme that is reducing the environmental impact of textile wet processing at mills in Bangladesh. Janet described the structure of the programme and how even basic cleaner production programmes in Bangladesh can sometimes achieve a 50% reduction in water impact, with in-depth projects requiring capital investment achieving a further reduction, showing the exciting opportunities for impact reduction by engaging with supply chain partners. Going beyond discussing the environmental benefits, the quick return on investment for these types of programmes was clear, leading Janet to add that many mills in Bangladesh are now approaching Solidaridad to get involved in PaCT. The session went on to discuss support tools available to brands to help them address their manufacturing impact, including a PaCT tool developed by MADE-BY called the Decision Support Guidance which guides brands toward more conscious and sustainable decision making around wet processing, and the newly launched MADE-BY Wet Processing Benchmark. Ariel answered questions on the new Benchmark, leading to a discussion on how the tool could be used to reduce environmental impact.


Making our value chains future proof

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Dr Maximilian Martin of the Apparel Innovation Consortium (AIC) & Impact investment firm Impact Economy gave a speech on the need for transparent reporting to drive change in the fashion industry. Maximilian also posed questions to the audience such as “is sustainable sourcing really possible”. A missing link according to Maximilian, is the role of impact finance. Maximilian went on to discuss the AIC model as a one stop shop for brands and suppliers to access machinery services and finance to upgrade the environmental and social performance of garment production.


The day concluded with Karin Reimerink, Principal Consultant, MADE-BY, bringing together all the discussions of the day. She summarised the day’s lively debates and provided a reflection to inspire the audience to continue on their sustainability journey.

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We will be publishing videos and more content from the event soon and keeping you up to date on Twitter and Facebook so do take a look.

Photo Credit: StillVision Photography

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