Assessing the environmental sustainability of an apparel supply chain : the development of a conceptual model based on a comparative study of preferred tools and actual practices
The apparel and textile industry is one of the largest in the world and is characterised by complex, global supply chains, water and chemical intensive processes as well as environmentally harmful raw material extraction and production. Because of this, environmental sustainability has become a key issue for the businesses in recent years. With this in mind, and considering an increasing demand for textile and apparel goods, the industry is in urgent need of improving the environmental footprint of its products. However, lack of transparency and available data throughout apparel supply chains decrease chances of producing accurate sustainability assessments, which in turn obstruct improvement measures. Moreover, companies often lack the in-house competence required to manage and create strategies for sustainability assessments.
In this study an overview of an apparel supply chain is provided, highlighting phases, sub phases, input and environmental indicators. Appropriate tools for assessing the environmental sustainability of such a supply chain are inventoried and examined. Based on a case study, a literature review and a stakeholder opinion assessment, misalignments between actual practices within an apparel company and recommended practices of the researcher and stakeholder communities are uncovered. These identified misalignments enabled the development of a conceptual model, aiming at facilitating the process of developing an environmental sustainability assessment strategy within an apparel company.
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