Now more than ever, buyers, governments, and business partners alike are demanding more information about the goods and services they purchase. Not only does transparency reassure consumers that the product is authentic and high-quality, it can also demonstrate that it was made safely, ethically, and with a sustainable production chain.
Customers and industry watchdogs are more conscious than ever of perceived injustices and abuses in product supply chains:
- In 2015, researchers discovered children and forced laborers working at cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast that were connected to the food and drink corporation Nestlé, causing a furious controversy.
- Calls for boycotts against Apple erupted after news of suicides and poor working conditions at factories operated by Foxconn, Apple’s manufacturing partner in China.
- The 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh killed 1,100 people—many of them in the garment industry—and drew the world’s attention to the horrific conditions faced by workers in these factories. As a result of the disaster, apparel companies such as H&M, Nike, and Patagonia pledged to make their supply chains transparent.
On the other hand, offering supply chain transparency and visibility to your customers may be worth its weight in gold. According to a 2016 study, 94 percent of consumers would be loyal to a company that gave them complete transparency.
The Benefits of Supply Chain Transparency
For companies, the benefits of transparency in the supply chain include:
- Higher sales: Shoppers are more likely to trust your business when you give them more insight into the underlying processes and workflows. By exposing information about your supply chain, you send a message of responsibility for your company’s environmental and social impact. This, in turn, leads to greater customer loyalty.
- Better product quality: Poor transparency leads to poor quality of your company’s products. As a result, you’ll see more returns and even recalls, and your business will needlessly bleed money. Conversely, better transparency means higher-quality final results and a more agile supply chain.
- Lower risk: All too often, companies are content not to peer too deeply into their own supply chains, leading to controversies like the ones above. Improving supply chain transparency will allow you to put an end to problematic behaviors and avert these public relations crises before they happen.
How Tech Developments Are Changing Supply Chain Transparency
Thanks to technological innovation, companies have more ways than ever to improve transparency in the supply chain:
- Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to uniquely identify a particular item.
- Quality and compliance monitoring software to find issues in the supply chain.
- Internet of Things (IoT) devices to track how goods and materials move.
- Blockchains to trace the provenance and authenticity of products such as wine and champagne.
With the advantages of transparency so obvious, your business can no longer afford to lurk in the shadows, keeping your supply chain opaque. The sooner that your company makes the change to supply chain transparency, the better prepared you’ll be for the future of the apparel industry.