Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management and Being Ahead of the Curve in Research

The New York Times is reporting on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which is planning to announce its formation in a press release today. The article, Clothes Makers Join to Set 'Green Score,' describes how this new coalition, consisting of apparel companies and even a university, is developing a comprehensive database of the environmental impact of every manufacturer, component and process in apparel production, with the aim of using that information to eventually give every garment a sustainability score.

According to The New York Times article:
Americans spent roughly $340 billion on clothing and shoes last year, which is about 25 percent of the global market, and virtually all of it — 99 percent for footwear and 98 percent for clothes — came from somewhere else, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association. And the various pieces and parts of any single garment — a jacket, say, or pair of pants — often come from such a diverse multinational chain of fabric mills, dye operations and assembly plants that quantifying the environmental impact of a single item is nearly impossible.

Interestingly, fashion and apparel supply chain management and even sustainable fashion supply chain management, have been the topic of some exciting recent research and publications. For example, the book, edited by Professor T.-M. Choi, entitled,
Fashion Supply Chain Management: Business and Industry Analysis
, will be published next month by IGI Global, and our paper, "Fashion Supply Chain Management Through Cost and Risk Minimization from a Network Perspective," is the lead chapter in this volume, which I am sure will be a much sought after reference.

Also, the International Journal of Production Economics has a special issue now in press with a focus on Green Manufacturing and Distribution in the Fashion and Apparel Industries, and my doctoral student, Min Yu, and I also have a paper in press for that special issue, entitled, "Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management Under Oligopolistic Competition and Brand Differentiation."

Interestingly, The Times article mentions such companies as Patagonia and Timberland and, propitiously, our inaugural speaker in our "Meet the Executive" series at the Isenberg School was Mr. Marc Schneider of PVH, who had been an executive previously at Timberland.

Let's say we are ahead of the curve and it is very exciting for students to see their research being relevant in practice and so timely!