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CE Conference 2022 - Sustainable Fashion - Lack of "gold standard" for sustainable supply chains blog

Lack of "gold standard" for sustainable supply chains

Linda Vidová, 18th Feb 2022
Disclaimer: the opinions of our writers do not reflect the opinions of the conference as a whole.
Linda Vidová, one of our Panels and Workshops Executives, exposes the issues behind sustainability commitments in fast fashion.

A sustainable or non-sustainable supply chain is not a choice a brand makes during the course of business. The decisions made mainly depend on the available suppliers located in their region. The Central European (CE) fashion industry lacks an ideal model of a sustainable supply chain for a fashion to mimic. To drive the change in the fashion industry would not only entail change in the internal processes of a company but also engagement from the government. Young liberals in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have organised movements such as "Polish Fashion Revolution" or "Klíma ťa potrebuje" (the climate needs you), to raise awareness about the ongoing issues with sustainability. Despite these attempts, there is still a lack of understanding which 'sustainable products' truly are sustainable, a common challenge facing the consumers and stakeholders.

Greenwashing and the absence of a scalable 'gold standard' for sustainable chains are one of the many challenges that sustainable fashion faces. These obstacles, however, have never held back the committed from making a difference and innovating new solutions to every challenge. Fashion brands that control, manage and take accountability of their global supply chains will be the ones able to drive change and fulfil the needs of their customers, while also being rewarded by the potential of a large market for sustainable products.

Some brands characterised as being 'fast fashion' often introduce a 'green' collection containing clothes made only out of sustainable products. What consumers do not realise is that this is a form of greenwashing. Just because certain pieces are described as sustainable does not equal the fact that the rest of the brand’s products are usually non-biodegradable and harmful to the environment. This practice unfortunately discourages brands and other players in the fashion supply chain from making genuine efforts to improve the sustainability of their processes and products.

To fully comprehend the social dilemma, take a look at this example: A customer is deciding between two T-shirts. One of the T-shirts is made with viscose and the other with polyester. Viscose rayon is made from wood pulp, which can have an impact on forests around the world. Polyester is not biodegradable and stays in landfills for a long time. In this case, both choices are equally non-sustainable. The customer is deciding between a non-biodegradable landfill waste and a byproduct of a possibly endangered forest. This dilemma is the result of the lack of industry-wide understanding of which products are sustainable and to what scale.

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