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Made-By Calls for Stronger Retail-Supplier Ties, Sustainable Supply Chains

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In the wake of factory fires, the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh and Greenpeace reports on the impact of hazardous processes on both people and the environment, European sustainability nonprofit Made-By said in its 2013 Annual Report that the effects of these developments are rippling beyond the industry to governments and consumers, driving retailers and brands to “clean up their act.”

The report calls for brands to gain a better understanding of their supply chains and to strengthen relationships with suppliers. “Indirect sourcing, fragile governance within key supplier countries and a lack of transparency beyond factory level has made it difficult for even the most motivated of brands to get a clear view on how to tackle these issues, who they need to engage with and how much it is all going to cost,” the report noted.

In order to tackle endemic worker safety, human rights and environmental issues along the supply chain, the organization said the industry needs to think more creatively and longer term. “Costs cannot be borne by brands and a few government grants alone,” according to the report.

Made-By, which was named 2013 consultancy of the year at the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards, worked to update its traceability tools, expand its technical skill set around wet processing management and broadened its consultancy offerings in 2013.

Through its diverse partnering brands, including denim brand G-Star, Imps&Elfs childrenswear and designer label Ted Baker among others, Made-By saw an increase of 25 percent in the number of garments produced in Class A factories, and an 11 percent production increase in Class B factories. The majority of production took place in China, followed by Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and Turkey.

The report indicated that the total amount of organic cotton used by partners is on the rise as well. Demonstrating a clear commitment from partner brands to increase the volume of organic cotton in their collections, Made-By reported that organic cotton use increased 29.5% against 2012, a 76 percent increase over 2011.

In 2013 Made-By expanded its U.K. footprint when it became an official supporter of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), which in February 2014 announced that its 2020 commitment signatories have pledged to reduce their carbon and water footprints and landfill waste by 15 percent by the end of the decade.

As part of a consortium to encourage retailers and potential support organizations to take an active role in SCAP, Made-By extended its outreach to 30 percent of the U.K. clothing retail market and engaged 10 retailers to baseline their data and set action plans detailing their reduction targets.

In 2013 the organization made strides at the international level by supporting multinational fashion brands and retailers on social and sustainability projects, including a breakthrough traceability project with Eileen Fischer that will see the brand map 100 percent of its supply chain–a first for a brand of its size–of 60 stores across three countries.

For Eileen Fisher, the project presented an opportunity to understand and give back to the countries that supply its products and their components.

“We hope to discover new stories about the people who make them, the communities where they live, the natural environment impacted by those products or the animals who provide fiber for our products,” Amy Hall, director of social consciousness at Eileen Fisher said. “We also hope to identify opportunities for new collaborative projects that can benefit those communities as well as opportunities for economies of scale among suppliers.”

In other retail-related projects, the organization worked with Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) to build “bite-sized” training programs to inform the brand’s Dutch Conscious Ambassadors of key sustainability issues facing the fashion industry. Made-By also worked with U.K. retailer John Lewis on its clothing take-back pilot.

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