Being sustainable might be "the right thing to do," but it impacts each and every stage of the apparel industry and its supply chain. Here some of the participants at this year's Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong share their thoughts on the issue.

  • "I see sourcing changing from the more transactional model of the past to a very integrated model. I'll tell you why. Product safety, restricted substances, conflict minerals, responsible sourcing, sustainability, energy efficiency, structural safety, and corporate social responsibility - all are growing in importance and [this] will not stop. So jumping around to new suppliers becomes very difficult because you have so many things to deal with rather than just the price of the garment" - Veit Geise, vice president, VF Asia.
  • "As part of the M&S Plan A sustainability project, having strong relationships and partnerships with tier-2 suppliers [fabric, yarn, components, wet processing] is really key to getting better visibility, traceability, reducing risk and driving quality standards and delivery and availability. M&S has over 500 fabric suppliers - not long ago we had 1500 fabric suppliers - so we've reduced the number of tier-2 partnerships" - Richard Thomas, head of Far East region, sourcing, Marks & Spencer (Asia Pacific).
  • "The main challenge on where the product is made is also related to the complexity of the supply chain and how to have a full transparency push if the buyers don't always know where the products are made. It's a given that the supply chain is sustainable. Yet consumers don't really seem to have an interest in the product being sustainable" - Anne-Laure Descours, global director, development and sourcing apparel, Puma - World Cat.
  • "Our customers ask us about things like social responsibility, water, carbon, energy, angora and mulesing. Consumers do 'shop their values' but they won't pay more for the products. The companies that do not consider sustainability as a key factor will soon be dropped by investors and consumers" - Charles Dickinson, SVP, head of global quality management and sustainability, Esprit.
  • "As an industry we have to change a set of our dynamics. It's much easier to be reactive than proactive, but we have to be proactive. It's easier to admit sustainability into your organisation if you really believe in sustainability; if you're doing it because you believe it's the right thing to do rather than something the consumer's demanding you do" - Bob McKee, global fashion industry strategy director, Infor.
  • "In our sourcing offices we are in the process of training and developing our tactical sourcing specialists to make them more multi-skilled so they can deal with both tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers, visit factories, [provide] information on capabilities, products, factory standards, environmental considerations, and sustainability. We're trying to develop our own capabilities and take control of our own sourcing destiny" - Richard Thomas, head of Far East region, sourcing, Marks & Spencer (Asia Pacific).
  • "Being sustainable is the right thing to do. Consumption is growing and we can't continue like this. Earth Overshoot Day [the day the world uses up all the resources that the planet can sustainably provide in a year before moving into ecological deficit by depleting resources and accumulating carbon dioxide] gets earlier and earlier each year as consumption goes up. [August 20 was Earth Overshoot Day 2013] - Charles Dickinson, SVP, head of global quality management and sustainability, Esprit.
  • "Consumers today are empowered. In China alone, there are now more than 600m smartphones - which means millions of tech-savvy aspirational middle class consumers are all blogging, talking about your products. We are seeing a new emerging wave of mobile-centric consumers; they are actively talking and blogging about all the brands" - Anson Bailey, partner, business development, KPMG China.
  • "In China there are 560m online users - and we're going to see 20% of the global online community by 2020 will be in China. We need to find new product innovation and new ways of cutting the levels of waste in the text industry today, and we need to find better ways of getting connected with these new consumers"- Anson Bailey, partner, business development, KPMG China.
  • "We're living in days and times of instant data. People know things instantaneously, whether it's right or wrong, whether it's fact or fallacy. The more salacious the information, the faster it will move. The information about the collapsed building in Bangladesh moved at the speed of light. Bad information moves faster than good information. We have to recognise that this is going to happen, it's going on all the time. Information is our best friend or it can be our worst enemy" - Bob McKee, global fashion industry strategy director, Infor