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Just as consumer focus on farm-to-table has increased supply chain transparency within the food retail industry, an increasing focus on what materials, apparel, footwear or furniture  are made of, the origin of these materials and manufacturing processes is set to transform fashion retail.

In a latest report by Sourcing Journal – 85 percent respondents said transparency is either extremely or very important to their industries’ success. To add to that, 66 percent of organisations surveyed said they’re currently pursuing transparency initiatives. Another 15 percent plan to within the next year, while 13 percent expect to in the next 2-to-5 years.

With transparency becoming the new norm, where does it begin and where does responsibility lie in driving it forward?

 Transparency: from buzzword to business

As consumer awareness of corporate and social responsibility increases, so does the number of questions they ask. Highlighted by the aftermath and worldwide criticism following the 2013 Rana Plaza incident, addressing ‘transparency’ has become an important differentiator for many brands and retailers. From farm-to-factory-to-store, it requires brands to be able to trace the journey of their products right down to the origin of the raw material.

In the same report by Sourcing Journal, when asked who was mainly responsible for improving transparency in supply chain, more than two thirds (78 percent) of those polled put brands at the top of the list, followed by factories (60 percent) and retailers (50 percent).

However, responsibility cannot be given in isolation or in silos. It’s a tough time for brands and retailers, so choosing to invest in next-gen technology that allows them to easily and cost-effectively embrace collaboration should be their focus.

Technology and Collaboration: long term focus

In this data-driven supply chain having data is not enough. Data should be relevant and easily accessible at your fingertips. Replacing the traditional mix of emails, spreadsheets, phones calls, and PDF attachments with a cloud-based next-gen collaborative tool will provide the most up-to-date information in real-time. Moving away from silos to a coordinated approach supported by the latest technology will help to provide a single version of the truth allowing for an informed and transparent decision-making process between retailer and supplier.

Moreover, supplier and factory engagement processes have moved from one based on monitoring and correction, to one that incorporates this end–to-end approach. For example: ensuring all associated factories in your supply chain have been audited ethically and technically to quickly identify any vulnerabilities and making better use of historical data to make proactive decisions rather than being reactive to unexpected (if predictable) outcomes.

As sustainability climbs higher up global fashion brands and retailers’ agendas, having scalable and appropriate technology solutions will help build the foundation for transparency. This year’s Fashion Transparency Index produced by Fashion Revolution shows sports and outdoor brands are leading the way. 70 out of the 200 major fashion brands are publishing a list of their first-tier manufacturers, and 38 brands are disclosing their processing facilities, where ginning and spinning, embroidering, printing and finishing typically takes place.

Conclusion

Transparency is the new norm. The absence of transparency and collaboration will ultimately compromise not only the achievement of an organisation’s long-term goals, but could lead to consumer abandonment of the brand. In short, transparency begins and ends with every single stakeholder in the retail supply chain.

As the industry searches for new ways to align both transparency and collaboration, the adoption of new technology will play an important role in making more effective decisions and improve consumer confidence.

You can also learn more about why retailers are trusting Adjuno to elevate transparency, visibility and efficiency across their business in our podcast here .

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