From April 22th-25th this years IMB (World of Textile Processing) took place in the chambers of Cologne´s fair in Germany. The 3p Institute and gsm Consulting GmbH were present with a proper stand informing and consulting visitors about social and ecological aspects in their growing industry (here you can have a look at 3p’s/gsm’s new marketing collateral - social - ecological - profitable).
During the future talk at IMB 2009 Willie Beuth, member of the task force group ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ of the International Apparel Federation (IAF), expressed clearly that the traceability and transparency throughout the value chain leads to a better understanding between industry and trade. However, this future strategy ask for a full understanding of the requirements and their implementation throughout the entire production, starting from the fibre, spinning, weaving, dyeing, assembly, selection of accessories. Everything must be defined and conform to national and international requirements. This covers also sub-contractors and sub-suppliers. Furthermore traceability and transparency is related to a documentation system in order to show proof of evidence.
The trade still believes in audits. Retailer associations and standard holders generate a lot of money through audits. However the impact of audits over the last decade is verified as negative. Delivering just information seminars for the top management is insufficient. Retailers such as German Otto Group have realized that. There is need for knowledge transfer directly at the plant. Terminologies of social and environmental standards have to become simplified. The staff in Bangladesh, Turkey or Middle East has to learn how to apply the requirements in daily production. Of course qualification and investment in human capital cause costs as well as the compliance with national requirements, if we talk for instance about effluent treatment. Therefore the trade, but also the politics have to understand and to inform the consumer society that a t-shirt cannot cost only 1 Euro, if we all want to assure sustainable production. If it remains like that further discussions and debates about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or organic cotton products will furthermore distract from the current cost reality of a t-shirt.
Future progress needs clear commitment and responsibility from each end. From the supplier, from the retailer, and from the consumer. Otherwise the term ‘Sustainability’ keeps going on to be undefined and misused.