Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Jitesh Shetty, co-founder of InfiniChains, the company behind fashion traceability and collaboration platform Credible, discusses why the automotive industry sets an example in material tracking and how to go beyond greenwashing.
Name: Jitesh Shetty
Company: InfiniChains Inc
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
The automotive industry does really well with streamlining their supply chains, from the smallest bolt to a finished car. They do really well at not leaving any questions on how much they have to work with and how they obtained their materials. The apparel industry can learn how to be more meticulous with their supply chains through detailed in-house information using technology-enabled traceability systems.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I am a conscious consumer; I am also a minimalist. I prefer quality over quantity. I am very curious and conscious about from where I buy my items and the communities impacted by the things I decide to buy.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Brands that provide good quality consistently, have a strong mission and impactful cause. For example, a brand like Patagonia very clearly demonstrates its cause of caring for the environment.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
Jeans, shirt and a jacket.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Who’s your style icon?
Yvon Chouinard [founder of Patagonia].
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
We minimized the impact of the pandemic on our employees and customers. We very quickly adopted an action plan to be agile and operate better than pre-pandemic times. We did this by a combination of a few things: our agile culture, training and tools we deployed across the company to enable remote working. We also put together a support system for anyone impacted.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Entrepreneurial and open. To us, no idea is a bad idea. Anyone in our company can feel free to bring new and innovative ideas. Because at the end of the day, innovation is what makes a startup successful. We also think anyone can have a good idea, so we have a nonhierarchical structure. We also believe we live in a fast-changing global world, so you have to act nimble and quick. We have a strong bias towards action. It’s OK to fail, but that should not stop you from taking action.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
We are a diverse set of people spread around the world, but after a long time, we have a truly global crisis. This has reminded us of how much we share in common. When it comes to the apparel industry, the global nature of the supply chain is truly front and center. Both agility and sustainability are important lessons to be learned. Our supply chains have to be agile to respond to a crisis like this. Our supply chains also have to be sustainable because we share this planet and we as humans share a set of common goals and threats like a global pandemic.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
The top priority should be: “Take authentic and credible actions when it comes to sustainability and impact.” The industry as a whole is recognizing the importance of ESG [environmental, social and corporate governance] and sustainability, but there is a lot of greenwashing. Brands need real-time visibility into their supply chain when it comes to ESG, and also the ability to share and measure their sustainability goals with all stakeholders in the supply chain.
What keeps you up at night?
We are at an interesting point in the history of the apparel industry when it comes to sustainability. As an industry, if we seize this opportunity, we can make a real positive difference to the planet and for our future generations. There is a risk of choosing the easier path, which is to greenwash and make sustainability just a marketing thing. This is deeply disturbing. As an industry we should do the hard work and take concrete steps towards sustainability and ESG.
What makes you most optimistic?
Two things come to mind: The ability of technology to have a rapid positive social impact and the emerging conscious consumer base. Technology is rapidly democratizing opaque supply chain data, which in turn is making brands think deeply about the sustainability of their supply chain. There is also a growing conscious consumer base that deeply cares about both environmental and social sustainability.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
In 2021, we extended our core platform to include full value chain ESG traceability. Fashion is the second largest polluter in the world after oil and gas. Ten percent of all humanity’s carbon emissions is produced by the fashion industry. A large section of the supply chain sits in Asia without clear visibility into fair pay. We believe there is a fierce urgency of now when it comes to sustainability and ESG in the fashion industry. With our ESG platform, a brand can set ESG goals for its entire value chain and measure the ESG progress across its value chain.