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COVID-19: Redefining sustainability in the apparel industry


Apparel manufacturers invested lot of money in sustainable technologies in the pre-COVID period. However, now many of these manufactures have shifted focus on producing cheaper goods as retailers and brands began demanding discounts on the agreed price for their orders. They even threatened to cancel orders putting millions of jobs at risks. Hence, there is a need to redefine sustainability in the fashion industry in the post-COVID-19 pandemic world.

Embedding social causes in core business

Post COVID-19, manufacturers will have to integrate environmental, social, and purchasing considerations into their core business practices besides making new innovations in sustainability. They will also have to protect workers’ rights and livelihoods. Another way manufacturers can redefine sustainability is by forming greater collaboration and equitable partnerships across all parts of the value chain. They must avoid backsliding on progress by seeking practical and actionable guidance and preparing themselves for a changing industry.

They should resolve immediate inventory challenges by taking advantage of digitalization, innovative business models, and end-to-end solutions – with transparency playing aCOVID 19 Redefining sustainability in the apparel central role – to assess and demonstrate positive environmental and social impact to stakeholders.

Reinventing business models

The present system of placing new work orders enable clients to alter their ordered items or abandon contracts at any time without hesitation. It also enables them to demand discounts in case of any failure or flaws. Therefore, Bangladeshi apparel makers need to develop a new business model which would make both parties equally responsible for placing orders and purchasing raw materials

An ideal solution would be for buyers to pay for raw materials at the time of placing orders. Trade associations can formulate a set of guidelines including clauses such as no orders without irrevocable LC, views Mostafiz Uddin, Managing Director, Denim Expert.

While maintaining sustainability in their business, fashion companies not only need to safeguard human capital, financial capital, and supply chain relationships but also manage orders and preserve supply chain relationships. They also need to engage in collaborative conversations and respectful dialogue with suppliers on addressing these issues together.

Think out of the box

Lastly, thinking out of the box, manufacturers need to focus on creating a virtual marketplace (business to consumers) like Amazon, eBay as the consumer’s behavior towards purchasing changes rapidly, says Rubana Huq, President, BGMEA. They also need to emphasize on product diversification and technology up-gradation as demands for recycled, non-cotton based clothing goods and circular products items is on the rise, she adds.