Fashion stalls on the climate. Suppliers try to act

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Brands have sustainability goals, but fall short of meeting them. With most of the fashion industry’s footprint generated in the supply chain, from farmers to manufacturers, a supplier-led conference this week could offer a roadmap for bridging that gap.

Fashion brands rarely own or oversee their supply chain, from raw material sourcing to fabric production. This means that the work to achieve the climate goals, for which brands are increasingly ambitious and public, must be done at a level that they do not directly control. And most of these works require large investments. One of the reasons climate progress remains slow is that suppliers, who tend to operate on very thin margins, need more support from brands to enable the switch to renewables, for example – as well as laws and regulations to encourage access to climate-friendly technologies.

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On Tuesday, the Sustainable Apparel Forum in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, brought together brands and suppliers with labor organizers, policy makers, garment worker advocates, academics and green tech companies – collectively representing more than 20 countries – to open discussions from both sides of the table on climate action, safe working conditions and other pervasive topics in the fashion supply chain.

What sets this week’s event apart is that vendors weren’t just very present, they created and hosted it, bringing together people who know what needs to happen with people who can help make it happen. . It is rare for suppliers, brands, unions and government officials to be in the same room discussing solutions together. This is precisely why Mostafiz Uddin, founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange and owner of a denim factory, said he organized the forum in Dhaka: to put the different needs and opportunities on one agenda – and for Bangladesh to set an example for other manufacturing countries and for brands.

The Sustainable Apparel Forum, held this week in Dhaka, was organized by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange in partnership with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Photo: Courtesy of Mostafiz Uddin

About Jeff M. Thompson

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