Trust is important. It’s difficult to earn and can be lost very quickly. For any global manufacturer trust is essential in order to build a strong brand and a sustainable business.
When products fall short of consumer expectations—proving dangerous to personal health or the environment—news spreads quickly via the internet and social media, with damaging effects to a company’s brand, reputation and business.
The fashion industry seems particularly susceptible to these kinds of faux pas. Reports like “Dirty Laundry 2: Hung out to Dry ” recently published by Greenpeace reveal the presence of hazardous substances in clothing and textile products of the top 15 global retail brands. According to the authors, these substances have “hormone-disrupting properties that build up in the food chain, and can be hazardous even at very low levels”.
So where do things go awry?
In today’s fast paced world, consumers expect new products to be released quickly, at high-quality and low-cost and be available practically everywhere. Consequently products are developed and produced in a global supply chain which involves myriad contributors. It is understandable then that retailers have difficulties keeping an overview of all chemical substances being used in the process of making their products.
Yet the expectation of the general public remains that the company that brings a product to market is ultimately responsible for all compliance issues, including all of the materials and substances used in it, even those provided by suppliers.
IC Companys, for one, reacted swiftly and professionally to its failure. In a press release issued on August 18, 2011, it announced that it intends to “implement a new sourcing structure … to reduce the number of suppliers and improve efficiency.” According to the announcement, a number of new processes will be put in place to enable better control of product development, with stricter requirements for suppliers.
These changes should go some way to mitigate the risk of non-compliant products reaching the market, and other retailers should pay heed. Perhaps IC Companys will embrace a product analytics strategy whereby it can automatically consolidate information about the materials and substances that are used by different suppliers. Such a solution would enable systematic monitoring and eliminate hazardous substances from their supply chain.
A company that takes serious actions to control and eliminate the use of dangerous substance will show the consumer its true colors and continue to be a trusted brand.