On the 29th of March this year, Beira’s co-founder and MD Dr Antoinette Fionda-Douglas was invited to take part in the International Purchasing and Supply Education and Research Association (ISPERA) 2021 online conference. A huge thank you to the wonderful Dr. Hakan Karaosman for the invite.
The conference had guest speakers from different industries and backgrounds, who came together to host a panel discussion, which aimed to delve into the rhetoric of – “Fashion, Supply Chain and Sustainability: How to Fix A Broken System?” It specifically honed in on three main issues in the modern fashion industry – Modern Slavery, The Circular Economy and Community Development.
The key theme raised was that sustainability has never been more important than it is now. The conference detailed that “sustainability is a dynamic concept which requires long-term vision, commitment and multi-stakeholder collaboration at both vertical and horizontal levels.” With unprecedented challenges in the current environment, from COVID-19 to climate change, more vulnerable communities are being hit the hardest. The time for action is now.
The fast-fashion industry is booming. To meet demand, fashion companies are looking at ways to produce faster with greater outputs. As a result, the earths resources are becoming depleted, the planet has been scarred and vulnerable workers are pushed to the extremes. Even for brands which pledge to be more responsible, environmental and socially aware, issues are actually often found in lower tier supply chains, therefore they are unknowingly linked to these issues. Better and more robust supply chain solutions are needed as a catalyst for change, otherwise these issues will continue to grow and its effects will become irreversible.
Oskar Metsavaht, founder and CD of Osklen, was invited to discuss community development. The UN defines community development as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.”
Oskar’s brand believes in sustainable practice and has a conscious relationship with the environment. In this light, Osklen adopts a perspective of radical innovation and works with local communities in the Amazon to generate products in such a manner that will support communities in the lower tier supply chains. By giving back to the local community, better jobs will become available, worker talent will grow, individuals income levels will increase and production will be held at a local, more environmentally acceptable level. The idea is that new systems such as that of Osklen must be generated for industries to become economically
inclusive, socially just and environmentally regenerative.
The conference also discussed how innovation can be a catalyst for change. Carol Blazquez from Ecolaf outlined the brands commitment to sustainable fashion practices. The company has an upcycling oceans programme, and through sustainable supply chain integration, it saves up to 20% water, 40% energy and reduces carbon emissions by 50% in its production process. Carol and Antoinette discussed the importance of transitioning from resource depletion to resource generation. This can be achieved through the circular economy. By having individuals at the centre of the business model and distributing financial and technical resources with supply chain actors, radical collaboration and sustainability can be achieved. Carol and Antoinette claimed that “circularity is not the end itself; it is a means to become more responsible and transparent.” Beira adopts the circular economy, which “entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out of the system” (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). To create sustainable business practices, the innovation of the circular economy is key.
In the modern fashion environment, we are consuming resources faster than we can produce. Supply chain and business model solutions must be introduced to stop this, and in turn this will create a more sustainable future for generations to come.