César Araújo, President of ANIVEC, (Portuguese Association for Clothing and Apparel Industries) and the CEO of Calvelex speaks on the exponential growth of certification expectations.
Much has been said and speculated about supply chain certification; with sustainability at the forefront of the textiles industry and the ethics of production lines being questioned day after day, nearly every business will have endured the extensive certification procedures.
Consumer awareness of textiles supply chains is increasing
This is something that transcends the textile and garment manufacturing industries, however, due to the increased awareness of consumers, clothing has proven to be one of the most fragile targets.
The certification processes have existed for a few decades now and were initially requested by companies themselves, as a way of reassuring supplier compliance regarding the services contracted and upholding the ethical and labour policies advocated by the contracting company.
Independent evaluation of systems, products and processes
Certifications can be defined as procedures during which, a third party evaluates certain systems, products, or processes. This third party is external and totally independently accredited for audit purposes and verifies the conformity of an implemented system compared to referral standards. ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, and SA 8000, are a few examples.
Despite being a voluntary process, in which the audited company is undergoing evaluation for its own interest and assurance, increasing customer demand for traceability is resulting in brands requiring manufacturers to attain multiple certifications for the same requirements.
Nowadays, certifications are becoming a competitive selling point in themselves, as clothing and textiles manufacturers continue to comply to meet customer requirements and generate more business. We are witnessing certification starting to become an industry in its one right.
Despite providing the reassurance of good practices being a good thing, it is unreasonable to submit manufacturers to have dozens of certifications for the same processes as this causes a deregulated and unbalanced market, as only larger companies with the capacity and financial power to attain every relevant certification to meet the increasing demand for third party accreditation can tick every box, when there is no guidance on which certification should be prioritised for smaller companies.
No consensually established standards
There are no consensually established standards when it comes to certification itself, organisations are forced to repeat them again and again in order to get the business going and the majority of the time, manufacturers bear all the costs involved, being the subject of customers’ wills as result of their own lobby with the mentioned auditors. Instead of merely following the global standards, the required certifications are exclusively issued by a specific entity.
These tools should highlight the common interests of society and the environment, withholding the unique goal of promoting good practices for a more sustainable industry. Instead, they are currently promoting the foundation of one more side-business which cannibalises the industry.
It is proven that everything without guidelines will grow unregulated, so we should all be aware of how important it is to assume a referral to this matter for business. Instead of acting on our individuality, we should focus on the community, believing we are stronger together.
Promoting a balanced market for competition and innovation
After almost three years of a humanitarian crisis, we should assume our responsibility for the recovery of our society and our planet by promoting a balanced market with cutting edge solutions, bringing competitiveness to our industry and investing in innovation and research for new and better products.
We must recognise the coexistence of different industrial scopes. However, still, we must aim to be looked at as an example, establishing rules when it comes to certification for further countries to follow, instead of nourishing a new paranoia.
Knowledge will always mean power. The consumer is now demanding to get that power over what they are wearing and this should be supported by the brand and the entire supply chain behind it. However, this power shouldn’t come from leaving the factories and business people totally powerless, we must be able to decide who and when the production floors are audited, as long as it complies with the deadlines and the requirements.
Respect the coexistence and co-dependence of the supply chain
To get one step forward, we need to invest in workforce skills, as this will be the worker’s power and the strength of our factories. Therefore, the investment in technology will take us to the forefront of European fashion, making a difference in the garment production impact.
The brand-supplier connection needs to be controlled in more than one way. The claim for certification is just one example, delivery and on-time payments are equally essential. Only the commitment of both parties will allow the development of a sustainable ecosystem. This dynamic implies that the supplier and the customer respect the coexistence and co-dependence within the supply chain, establishing a bilateral relationship with the mutual goal of getting a fairer market, in which one’s profit doesn’t come out from another one’s expense.