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How to Set Chainwide ‘Measurable and Quantifiable’ Sustainability Goals

Sustainability has been a top talking point for the apparel supply chain in recent years, but it’s safe to say that mere awareness doesn’t cut it anymore. Results are a must.

To get there, brands have to set “measurable and quantifiable” goals, according to Min Zhu, Ph.D., technical director, U.S. and Canada softlines at SGS North America Inc., a testing, inspection and certification company. But when the sustainability conversation extends beyond the brand, suppliers typically need more explicit directions and training to set these goals in motion.

“The training that we provide to the supply chain should not just end at the Tier 1 supplier,” Dr. Zhu said in a conversation with Edward Hertzman, founder and president of Sourcing Journal. “We should go as far as we can reach to ensure the mutual understanding of the brand’s commitments, goals and expectations—this is critical.”

In developing its Sustainability Ambitions 2030 roadmap, SGS understood that it needed to set targets both for the short and long term. For example, the firm has committed to reduce car fleet CO2 emissions 10 percent by 2023 as part of a goal to cut CO2 emissions per revenue by 35 percent. But to expand that goal to 55 percent, SGS plans to cut these emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Upon laying out clearly defined goals like these, it becomes an organizational duty to set up a sustainability management system, Dr. Zhu said. This way, the brand can educate and involve stakeholders both within its own departments and across their supply chain on the targets.

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SGS firmly believes that tackling sustainability cannot be accomplished without mitigating the discharge of hazardous chemicals. That’s why the company is taking a holistic approach to educating brands via tactics such as on-site chemical management assessments, root cause analyses and consulting.

“We have some unique and easy, cost-effective assessment tools like online surveys to help our customers benchmark their chemical management practices,” she said.

Dr. Zhu noted that brands can’t afford to overlook the “third P” of sustainability’s “triple bottom line,” which includes people, planet and profit—if they are serious about improvement.

“I don’t often see profit targets or financial benefits brought with the sustainability actions,” Dr. Zhu said. “This is an important component when it comes to a sustainable and healthy business, so we should not forget that.”

Click the image above to watch the video and learn more about how SGS is helping the textiles and footwear supply chains set up their sustainability goals.