The Mode Tracker results are shown in a simple multi-layered report format

The Mode Tracker results are shown in a simple multi-layered report format

European sustainable fashion consultancy Made-By is planning to roll out its new Mode Tracker tool this autumn, to help fashion brands and retailers track progress in all areas of sustainability across their businesses, products and supply chains.

The plan is one of a number of milestones outlined in the just-released 2014 annual report for the not-for-profit group – which also marks its 10-year anniversary.

The tool, which was launched in October, is an evolution from the existing Scorecard system and is now being piloted with G-Star, Ted Baker and Kuyichi – as well as Just Brands (PME Legend, Cast Iron and Vanguard) and Vivobarefoot.

The goal is to migrate brands away from the Scorecard format over the next year and onto Mode Tracker instead, with the new product described as a first for the fashion industry, helping brands and retailers to monitor and communicate year-on-year improvements in key social and environmental issues.

It is based around eight topics, or ‘cubes’, covering People, Product, Manufacturing, Product Waste, Own Operations, Use & Durability, Transparency, and Packaging & Transport. Each cube is broken down into three levels of engagement, from basic (level 1) through to current industry best practice (level 3). The levels are built on metrics and scorings that have been reviewed by over 50 industry experts.

Brands are required to report on a minimum of three topics that must include Product and People.

To verify the depth and breadth of a firm’s sustainability engagement across each level, Mode Tracker evaluates information submitted on existing systems, processes and standards, before assessing performance on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being highest).

Based on performance across levels 1 to 3, brands receive an indicative colour-based summary for the cube topic and individual levels. Those that are driving innovation beyond industry best practice are awarded 'pioneering engagement' status.

As well as encouraging fashion brands and retailers to engage on key social and environmental issues, Mode Tracker also offers them a way to publicly demonstrate their sustainability engagement year-on-year in a 100% verified way, Made-By says.

Wet Processing Benchmark
Another highlight of last year detailed in the annual report is the new Wet Processing Benchmark. This is designed to help product developers and their teams to understand and reduce environmental impacts in the supply chain by using data from factories around the world to illustrate the sustainability of common wet processing techniques and applications in terms of water use, energy use and potential chemical or safety hazards.

Made-By says the "simple-to-use" tool helps quantify the impact of common processes such as pre-treatment, dyeing, finishing and printing, as well as demonstrate the more sustainable alternatives available. Importantly, the benchmark employs a range to show efficiency rates achieved by factories under real production conditions, reflecting the existence of so many variables in wet processing.

Drawn up in collaboration with Systainable Solutions, an organisation focused on making textile factories more efficient using software systems and processing experts, the resource helps product developers and their teams to have "meaningful conversations" with suppliers on the sustainability of wet processing techniques.

Embedding sustainability
As well as releasing new tools for the industry, Made-By also works to support brands and retailers in embedding sustainability into their everyday operations.

Projects in 2014 included being lead technical support provider to signatories of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), led by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) in the UK. Here, Made-By says it assisted over 40% of the UK retail market (by sales value) including companies such as Arcadia, Tesco and Sainsbury's to reduce the carbon, water and waste impacts of clothing sold in the UK, right across its lifecycle.

The consultancy also trained Swedish brand Acne on more sustainable denim production; and kicked off a major supply chain traceability programme with a luxury clothing brand. It also carried out a feasibility study of a spinner verification initiative for the Responsible Sourcing Network, a project of the US-based not for profit organisation As You Sow.

Scorecard system
The annual report also highlights progress of partner brands in their last year of using the current Scorecard system.

In 2014, the total number of garments produced in Class A, B and C factories, increased 16% compared to 2013. Of this total, Made-By saw an increase of 23% in Class A factories and a 17% increase in Class B factories as well as a 10% increase in Class C equivalent factories. The overall top five production countries for partner brands in 2014 were: China, Bangladesh, India, Turkey and Vietnam. All five countries have retained their relative position in the top five compared to 2013.

The total amount of garments produced with Class A, B or C materials decreased by 16% compared to 2013, reflecting the reduction in the use of organic cotton by partner brands. This also mirrors a broader shift to a wider range of more sustainable cotton options such as Better Cotton, which is currently not reflected in the Fibre Benchmark.

In 2014, organic cotton usage by partner brands dropped to 644,817 kg, compared to 978,047 kg in 2013. Even so, this organic cotton usage was equivalent to nearly 2.8m 100% organic cotton garments.

Whilst the usage of Class B fibre organic cotton declined slightly, there was a 4% increase in the usage of Class A fibres, as well as a slight increase in Class C fibres compared to 2013. Organic cotton, Tencel and recycled polyester remained the most popular sustainable alternative fibres used by brands.

Class A materials include mechanically recycled nylon, mechanically recycled polyester, organic flax (linen), organic hemp, recycled cotton and recycled wool); Class B materials include chemically recycled nylon, chemically recycled polyester, Crailar flax, in conversion cotton, Monocel (bamboo lyocell product), organic cotton, Tencel (Lenzing lyocell product); and Class C materials include conventional flax (linen), conventional hemp, PLA, and ramie.

Summing up the changes it has seen in the fashion industry over the past decade, the group says: "We have seen more brands and retailers of all sizes pushing themselves to understand the full breadth and depth of their supply chains and increasingly seek to communicate their efforts in a transparent way.

"Whilst issues still persist, we remain optimistic that industry leaders are setting a trend that even the most resistant brands will start to follow."

Click here to view Made-By's 2014 annual report.