Events and insight for sustainability

Sustainable apparel: How brands can transform supply chains

24th April 2018
25th April 2018

Timeslots are provisional and exact timings may change




Q&A with Kering: The most sustainable textile, apparel and luxury goods corporation of 2018

Corporate Knights’ Global 100 index recently named Kering as the 2018 top sustainable textile, apparel and luxury goods corporation. Michael Beutler, director of sustainability operations at Kering, will be sharing the company's journey to this spot and how it has integrated sustainability in its operations.

Michael Beutler, director of sustainability operations, Kering

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


The state of play in sustainable apparel: an in-depth look at how brands are currently performing

2018 has been tipped to be the year sustainability goes mainstream within the apparel industry. Advances in tech innovation have opened up sustainable business models that deliver, not just on sustainability goals, but on the financial bottom line too. These commercial drivers have led to many brands embarking on new models delivering increases in transparency, efficiency and genuine ethical upgrades.

However, fast fashion is big business. An industry now worth $1.2 trillion has largely benefited from a take-make-dispose economy. How quickly and how enthusiastically are brands actively responding to increasing consumer and activist pressure? Are these new models even viable at the scale that is required for wholesale change? And is the demand really there when it comes to asking customers to play their part?

In this opening panel, we will consider the state of play in the apparel industry as a whole. We’ll discuss and debate questions such as:

  • Where are brands leading and lagging versus consumer, investor and activist expectations?
  • How are leading brands implementing a shift towards more sustainable, circular business models?
  • What opportunities are there for apparel brands in a new era of supply chain transparency?

Alfred Vernis, sustainability academic director, Inditex

Alison Ward, CEO, CottonConnect

Katrin Ley, managing director, Fashion for Good

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Networking & Coffee Break


Getting everyone on board: how to engage and communicate effectively with procurement

In order to achieve sustainability targets, it is essential to obtain genuine buy-in from procurement departments. But the targets and objectives of buyers don’t always match up with sustainability goals. So, how can brands realign objectives to ensure procurement and sustainability teams are pulling in the same direction?

For years, brands across industries have struggled to reach alignment of these departments. Often it comes down to incorporating sustainability objectives into the KPIs of procurement teams. Linking incentives in pay to sustainability targets is the clearest way to ensure buyers are motivated in sustainability. But these ideas have been around for years. How can brands ensure that sustainability considerations really are factored in across day-to-day decision making? Does it always have to come down to money?

In this session, we’ll discuss:

  • Proven methods of communicating and engaging effectively across departments
  • How to structure incentives for procurement teams when setting and implementing sustainability targets
  • What to avoid when talking to buyers about sustainability

Elin Larsson, sustainability director, Filippa K

Anna-Karin Dahlberg, corporate sustainability manager, Lindex


Q&A with Hugo Boss: Challenges and opportunities in the luxury fashion sector

Andreas Streubig, director global sustainability, Hugo Boss

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum

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Lunch provided by Innovation Forum


Breakout one: Supply chain mapping: How can brands expand traceability beyond tier 1?

Traceability has long been identified as one of the most critical areas for the apparel industry. A company needs to know its supply chain to comprehensively asses its risks and engage on tackling them.

Supplier mapping allows brands to know where their products come from and who has made them. This reduces risk, increases control and compliance, improves reputation, while delivering on the bottom line.

While most brands have managed to map their tier 1 suppliers, getting further into the supply chain is a challenge.

In this session, we will look at the importance of mapping raw materials and look at solutions that help brands trace and monitor beyond tier 1.   

We will ask panellists:

  • What are the key challenges in tracing beyond tier 1?
  • What useful and innovate technology solutions are already available?
  • What are some examples of effective collaborations in this space?

Vikki Brennan, director, Proudly Made in Africa

Anna-Karin Dahlberg, corporate sustainability manager, Lindex

Fleur Meerman, senior policy advisor, Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile, Sociaal-Economische Raad (SER)

Moderator: Alison Ward, CEO, CottonConnect

Breakout two: Can digitalisation drive the next wave of sustainability in the apparel industry?

The apparel industry has been slow to embrace digital technologies. But the digitalisation and automation of supply chains appears all but inevitable. Promises of shortened lead times, increased manufacturing flexibility, reduced suppliers, streamlined communications and a host of other benefits have procurement professionals convinced that the future is digital. But what are the sustainability implications of this emerging trend?

For fast fashion, digitalisation has promised greater customisation potential, reduced waste, increased transparency and significant overall resource savings. But despite a handful of pilots and PR stunts, brands still seem slow in the uptake.

In addition to the environmental effects, increasingly automated supply chains have a significant social impact as well. Do brands have a social obligation to the factories and workers in their supply chains?

This session will assess the sustainability impacts brought by digitalisation. We’ll debate how far digitalisation can drive sustainable outcomes, and discuss the potential for negative consequences as well.


Anna Maria Rugarli, senior director, sustainability and research, VF Corp.

Rachel Kibbe, co-founder, Helpsy

Christian Birky, co-chair, Ethical Fashion Lab, NEXUS 

Breakout three: Viscose: A closer look at the emerging deforestation threat

Until recently, the relationship between the fashion industry and deforestation was largely undocumented. Viscose, also known as rayon, is made from cellulose or wood pulp. Although viscose is made from generally quick growing, regenerative trees, the sustainability of the wood sources varies greatly.

Canopy’s ‘Hot Button Issue’ assessment rated companies on this issue. As a result, nine of the top ten viscose producers, including Lenzing and Aditya Birla, have now publicly committed to end all sourcing from endangered forests. Brands such as Inditex, Stella McCartney and Eileen fisher have also been moving to more sustainable viscose sources.

This breakout session will look at viscose as an emerging deforestation threat and answers questions such as:

  • Who are the industry leaders when it comes to sourcing viscose?
  • What is the next step beyond avoiding controversial sources?

Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director, Canopy

Tara Luckman, senior sustainability manager, ASOS


Breakout out: Transparent supply chains: What information should brands disclose, and how should they go about it?

Consumers are increasingly demanding more transparency on where apparel products come from. Companies that aren’t transparent will lose trust. This appears to be something brands are taking seriously with 42 out of 100 large fashion brands disclosing supplier information in 2017.  

With this influx of supply chain data, the question facing many brands is what to do with it. While organisations have long focused on the “labour behind the label”, transparency around the environmental footprint of brands is also gaining momentum. New mapping tools such as the IPE Green Supply Chain can openly link multinational corporations to their suppliers’ environmental performance.

With so many brands sharing supply chain data, this session will look at whether sector-wide initiatives can be scaled. We will also ask what brands can and should do with the information gathered to improve supply chain practices and be more transparent with stakeholders.


Nina Shariati, project manager, transparency and Higg Index, H&M

Roberto Vega, head smallholder policy & food chain relations, Syngenta

Subindu Garkhel, cotton product manager, Fairtrade

Margreet Vrieling, associate director, Fair Wear Foundation

Moderator: Vikki Brennan, director, Proudly Made in Africa

Breakout two: Roadmap to Zero: Eliminating hazardous and toxic chemicals from supply chains with the ZDHC Programme

Hazardous and toxic chemicals not only cause damages to the environment, but affect both textile workers and the wearers of clothes. According to the World Bank, 20% of water pollution globally is caused by textile processing, making it the second biggest polluter of freshwater globally, following agriculture.  

The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Programme includes a collaboration of brands, value chain affiliates and associates, working to implement safer chemical management systems. It started as a response to the Greenpeace Detox campaign, which prompted brands to commit to eliminating hazardous chemicals by 2020. Only two years away, this session will look at the progress of brands to date and what needs to be done to ensure these goals are met on time.


Frank Michel, executive director, ZDHC Foundation

James Carnahan, global sustainability manager, Archroma

Breakout three: The little big problem: Microfibres

Microfibres, minute plastic particles that are shed every time polyester (and other synthetic materials) are washed, have been a major contributor to the growing problem of ocean plastic pollution.  

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres are released from washed clothes every year. The particles can easily pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants, do not biodegrade, and are then eaten by small creatures, such as plankton.

At present, alternative non-plastic synthetic fibres, offering the same versatility and performance of materials like polyester, are limited. Furthermore, research into how much harm these fibres cause in aquatic environments and its effect for human health is still in its infancy.

This session will look at the present research into microfibre pollution, and the options currently at companies’ disposal to try and combat the issue.


Joao de Sousa, marine project manager, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Coffee & Networking Break


Standards consolidation: what needs to happen to drive efficiencies, reduce audit fatigue and improve performance

The apparel industry is made up of a large number of complex, widespread and intertwined company supply chains. Each of these supply chains is measured against an overwhelming number of standards, audits and assessment frameworks. This is leading to a growing fatigue across the industry. Factories are struggling to meet the multiple criteria demanded by brands and the industry is spending vast amounts of resources, often unnecessarily.

In an effort to reduce this audit fatigue and mere duplication, one solution could be effective standards consolidation. In this session, we’ll ask questions such as:

  • Is standards consolidation a realistic solution to reducing audit fatigue?
  • How can the audit process be improved to deliver better information whilst draining fewer resources?
  • How can industry collaboration work to reduce the growing burden on factory resources?

Christian Smith, project manager, Social and Labor Convergence Project

Tamar Hoek, senior programme manager sustainable textiles, Solidaridad


Networking Drinks


How close is circularity to gaining to real traction in the fashion industry?

According to a 2017 McKinsey report, implementing a circular economy could save up to £500bn annually. Circularity is inching its way into the fashion industry, but how close is it to mainstream application?

Innovation across the sector is opening up new business opportunities. Companies such as H&M, adidas and Kering are leading the way through new production methods, and in January 2018 numerous additional fashion brands committed to boosting circular apparel efforts by 2020.

However, there is still a long way to go. While there is interest in moving towards a more circular model of textile production, the prominent fast fashion business model renders it difficult to scale efforts. At the same time, current recycling rates for textiles sill remain very low.  

A systemic shift in business models is a big undertaking, but being ahead of the game is an opportunity for business to profit whilst improving operations.

This session will hear from some leading brands who have already begun developing circular supply chains, and answer questions such as:

  • Will the current momentum around circularity continue in the coming years?
  • Is a circular business model realistic at the scale required for large apparel brands?
  • How far are current projects from going mainstream?
  • How can the industry effectively work together to move away from a take-make-dispose model?

Anna Maria Rugarli, senior director, sustainability and research, VF Corp.

Douwe Jan Joustra, head of circular transformation, C&A Foundation

Traci Kinden, project manager, circular textiles, Circle Economy

Alexandra Florea, sustainability delivery manager, Marks & Spencer

Moderated by: Giusy Bettoni, CEO & managing director, Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy



Coffee & Networking Break


How can brands ensure that circularity is embedded from the design stage?

At present, the textile system operates in a linear way. Most pieces of clothing are only worn a couple of times and then mostly end up in landfill. For brands, a key starting point is to get design teams to engage with the drive to lower impacts and to ensure sustainability is built in at the R&D stage.

In an effort to fully close the loop, brands need to ensure that mechanisms for circularity are put in place from the design stage. But, what new and sustainable fibres are there at companies’ disposal? How can brands use recycled content in their products?

Innovations in the industry are already full steam ahead. The H&M Foundation and the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel are working together to recycle blended fabrics; Worn Again has developed a process to separate and recapture polyester and cotton from pure and blended textiles; C&A released the first line of T-shirts certified by the Cradle to Cradle standard; and companies such as Lenzing are transforming textile scraps into new virgin materials.

The session will look at the existing and emerging innovations the fashion industry has to offer to ensure that circularity is embedded from the design stage.  

  • How can sustainability teams and designers work together effectively to find circular solutions?
  • What is the first step to incorporating circularity into R&D?
  • What systems and technologies exist for companies to improve the recyclability of materials?

Katrin Ley, managing director, Fashion for Good

Cecilia Takayama, director, materials innovation lab, Kering

Cyndi Rhoades, Founder & CEO, Worn Again

Steven Bethell, Co-Founder, Bank and Vogue

Moderated by: Sigrid Barnekow, program director, Mistra Future Fashion


Lunch provided by Innovation Forum


Case studies: New innovative fibres for the circular economy

In this session we will take an in-depth look at two innovative methods in which brands and manufacturers have worked together to develop circular materials. 


CASE STUDY 1: Recycling blended textiles

Erik Bang, innovation lead, H&M Foundation

Edwin Keh, CEO, Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel


CASE STUDY 2: Using 100% recycled polyester

Christoph Centmayer, sustainability manager, Bergans

Micke Magnusson, CEO, We Are SpinDye



The elephant in the room: What are consumers truly willing to offer in exchange for more sustainable products?

Millennials are often hailed for their support of the green economy. According to a 2015 Nielsen report almost 75% of 15-20 year olds are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. However, to date, it has been rather rare to see this trend in action when it comes to customers putting their hands in their pockets. Even millennials have been willing to offer relatively little in return for sustainability.

But is this trend changing? Are companies slowly seeing that, in large, customers are truly willing to offer something in return for a sustainable business model? Or does the “price of sustainability” have to be simply built in to every product because that’s what the customer expects?

In 2018, H&M released a new sustainable activewear collection. This gained widespread media coverage and was well received amongst consumers. However, since items are at the same price point as the company’s usual activewear collection, it is still hard to tell what really pushed that demand.

This session will address the ongoing debate on how much more consumers are willing to offer for more sustainable products. Is there finally enough demand in the marketplace to support the drive for more sustainable apparel production? Do customers have the information they need to make this choice?


Julia Hartmann, professor for sustainable supply chains, EBS Universität

Sigrid Barnekow, program director, Mistra Future Fashion

Giusy Bettoni, CEO & managing director, Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy


Closing remarks

Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum

Alison Ward, CEO, CottonConnect


End of Conference

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