ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Amy Wan, Group CEO of trims supplier Trimco Group, discusses how the industry must track and trace ESG claim to regain consumer trust.
Name: Amy Wan
Title: Group CEO
Company: Trimco Group
What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the past five years?
We see the apparel industry facing increasing consumer pressure and unprecedented regulatory demand to provide evidence and pathways to achieve higher ESG standards. Trimco, as the nominated trims supplier for many global brands, is also required to support them on their ESG journey. We not only develop trims and packaging with sustainable materials for the brands but also act as their consolidated data provider of garment fabric usage based on the content information on their care labels. This data need inspired us to develop a cloud-based sustainability track and trace IT platform called Product DNA®.
Product DNA® is a powerful ESG data engine that tracks the required ESG certifications of the garment factories and transaction certificate of each shipment, and traces all fibers used in every garment sourced by the brand. This data is then presented on a customizable dashboard providing slice and dice sustainability analysis by material, style, collection, manufacturer, region, etc., to support the brands to source more sustainably.
What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes?
I go by the three R’s of waste management—reduce, reuse and recycle—both professionally and personally. The first and foremost positive impact is buying less. Spending more on fewer pieces of clothing naturally pushes me to be more selective on quality and style. In addition, restyling by altering old garments is fun, creative, and becoming one of my favorite pastimes. It’s also increasingly popular to find their next owner on online resale and recycle platforms. Pieces from a good brand are snatched up in no time. The rest I give away to charity.
How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping?
Most retailers these days have a sustainable collection alongside their standard products, so it is easy to compare quality and price. The next step is to check for supporting information on their sustainability claim. Certain activewear brands such as Patagonia only offer sustainable clothing, and they are very good at communicating their supply chain transparency at their stores and on their website. Purchasing from this kind of brand is a no-brainer.
Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?
We are surrounded by opportunities to live our daily lives more sustainably in so many small ways: sort and recycle waste, buy fresh produce without plastic wraps or containers, join local community groups to give away furniture and appliances, walk instead of driving where possible, etc. If we can all start to promote our ingenious small effort on social media, these little actions have the potential to become trends and habits among friends and communities, adding up to a significant boost to sustainability. Never underestimate the collective power of small steps!
What is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?
Sustainable clothing has, in recent years, transformed from an expensive niche for a selective consumer segment to a common marketing slogan. Brands have many ways to promote their sustainable collections with or without the means to back up their sustainable claims. Consumer watchdogs have caught various brands greenwashing, which caused confusion and loss of trust. This is why Trimco decided to launch a supply chain traceability and transparency platform.
Product DNA® is a platform that helps the brands capture the ESG certificates of garment manufacturers, the transaction certification of shipments, and the origin of fibers of each garment. It can also showcase these details directly to the consumers’ mobile phones by scanning the unique QR code we generate and print on the garment’s care label. The depth of details to display depends on the brand’s preference for how much of their supply chain they wish to disclose. We hope that with our sewed-in care label on each garment and a mobile phone, consumers can have a real-time connection to the sustainable journey of their garment.
What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis?
Except for very few head counts in Europe, we made the decision not to let go any of our staff, and were very happy to have our teams in all sites ready for action when the market bounced back. Our customers were grateful for the undisrupted support we managed to give to their supply chain globally throughout the Covid days.
What is your company’s latest sustainability-related initiative?
We will be rolling out a fashion circularity program rooted in Product DNA® for Bergans of Norway, a European outdoor brand that sells winter clothing as well as rents coveralls to children. We will provide satin care labels printed with a unique QR code to attach to these rental coveralls, which will take the user to our Product DNA® mobile app. This unique identifier links to display the features of the particular garment as well as its rental history, cleaning and maintenance tracking, current occupancy period, and availability for the next rental.
This new function of the Product DNA® will provide a quick and convenient way to encourage brands and consumers to safely participate in circular economy by fully utilizing the whole lifespan of garments and creating a win-win situation where all parties can make a positive impact on the supply chain and environment.
What is the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?
Digitalizing the supply chain and improving transparency by tracking the participants and tracing the materials should not take years to implement. Making wiser sustainable sourcing decisions based on real-time facts that are readily available and easy to understand should not cost an arm and leg. Embarking on the sustainable journey should not be an overwhelming task if done with an experienced partner that understands the business drivers and is well-connected to the supply chain. The demand for a greener and more transparent apparel industry is imminent, and time is not on our side. The apparel industry is generating a vast amount of valuable data that is waiting to be harvested. There are immense business opportunities in sourcing more sustainably and communicating that clearly to the consumers.