Blog: Hannah AbdullaCovid-19 remains top disruptor of supply chains

Hannah Abdulla | 26 October 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic remains the top disruptor of supply chains, new data shows, with its impacts resulting in an increase in cargo theft, smuggling and child labour.

It has hit the garment sector in the Asia-Pacific region particularly hard, with plummeting retail sales in key export markets affecting workers and enterprises throughout supply chains, new research from the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows.

Fatima Alaouia-Zohra, director-general of Morocco's textile and clothing industry association AMITH, tells of how the Covid-19 crisis has galvanised the sector into setting a new course for the future.

Meanwhile, UK online fashion retailer Asos has signed the Anti-Slavery International Charter, committing to help eradicate slavery, forced labour, and child labour in fashion supply chains.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is to halt all field-level activities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, where ongoing allegations of forced labour and other human rights abuses "have contributed to an increasingly untenable operating environment."

And major apparel companies including H&M, Marks & Spencer, Adidas, Nike and Gap have been contacted by UK politicians to give evidence at an inquiry exploring the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Brands now have the ability to assess social and labour performance of their supplier facilities with a standard scoring system added to the Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (Higg FSLM).

Online fast fashion retailer Boohoo is facing more challenges after it emerged that PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is stepping down as its auditor, following a recent investigation linking some of the company's suppliers to money laundering and VAT fraud.

A new global survey has found while there is clearly still a need for strong fundamental skills in the fashion industry – such as apparel costing, sourcing, and supply chain management – there is a gap in so-called "future" skills that combine 3D digitalisation and data skills with technical skills.

Digitalising apparel supply chains is disruptive but it also presents opportunities – with the real value coming from those that are nimble, agile and smarter, as opposed to just being faster.

On the sustainability front, textile waste must become the industry's new raw material, according to consortium that has issued a call to action for brands and retailers, waste collectors and recyclers as part of its vision to prove the feasibility of textile-to-textile circular systems.

Moves are underway toverify the origin of half of the world's supply of mohair to give manufacturers, brands and consumers greater insight into the provenance of the raw material used in their products.

An equal partnership between a brand and its suppliers is the only way to successfully accelerate sustainability, one industry executive has said, with collaborative action key.

UK fashion sustainability campaign Fashion Revolution has called for more transparency beyond the first tier of garment manufacturing to include the disclosure of processing facilities and textile mills.

A new World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling adds further tensions to transatlantic trade after authorising the European Union to impose tariffs on US$4bn of US imports every year.

Forecasting the future is always difficult, particularly where US politics is involved.But during days of extreme challenges, a look ahead is more important than ever.

Elswhere Gap is to pare back its store presence in Europe with the potential closure of bricks and mortar stores across the continent and the possibility of transferring some of the business to third-parties.

China's Alibaba Group Holding Limited is to take a majority stake in Sun Art Retail Group Limited, one of the country's largest big box retailers.

German sporting goods giant Adidas is said to be mulling a sale of its Reebok business, which it acquired in 2006 for US$3.8bn.

And Bealls Inc has acquired the intellectual property of Stage Stores with a US$7m bid that also covers the off-price department store operator's Texas distribution centre.

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