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Increasing your Clothing Supply Chain Visibility Using Big Data Visualization

09 March 2018

Recent initiatives like Greenpeace’s Detox, and the #whomademyclothes campaign by Fashion Revolution have put the focus of clothing manufacturing on transparency, with the responsibility firmly on retailers and brands. The consumer expectation that brands will know, and take responsibility for, their supply chain impacts is stronger than ever before. As a result, many brands and retailers are seeking to get a better picture of their supply chains, extending past cut and sew visibility and beyond social compliance.

The quality and quantity of sustainability data that brands collect from their suppliers has increased substantially over recent years. Collective initiatives, like the SAC Higg Index and SCAP 2020 reporting, have contributed to this trend. But how can brands best manage and aggregate this data? And, more importantly, how can they use it to influence sustainability performance?

Tableau data anthesis

Image: Supply chain visualization map modelled by Anthesis using Tableau Software

Utilizing supply chain data effectively

Many brands find collecting and collating the substantial quantities of data from their supply chain to be a time-consuming, sometimes overwhelming, task. Even those who have managed to create systems for gathering the requisite datasets may struggle to make the most of it efficiently; in the modern world, being able to use big data to quickly and effectively get a picture of operations is key to commercial and sustainability success.

The potential of supply chain data, if harnessed correctly, is huge:

  • Brands can calculate their carbon footprint of their supply chain using real, primary data;
  • Sourcing teams can evaluate water risk across different geographies of supply;
  • Efficiencies can be targeted at individual factories based on scale of improvement opportunities;
  • Decisions about strategic sustainability priorities can be made clear and communicated easily.

Utilizing supply chain data in an effective manner can drive action, mitigate risk and reduce cost, but doing so requires the right tools.

Visualizing your big data

At Anthesis, we have been working with clients to combine efficient collection and aggregation tools with modern data visualization techniques to efficiently drive action. In addition to speeding up the data collection process, this enables brands to use the data to, quite literally, get a picture of their impacts and opportunities. This helps them tell their sustainability story to internal and external stakeholders.

To illustrate with an example:

Imagine a CSR manager in a global apparel brand who wants to develop a supply chain water stewardship plan. They will need to gain a picture of their supply chain water impacts and persuade senior management: a) why they need a strategy, and b) what that strategy will be. This may be done in the following way. 

  1. If the brand is an SAC member, they may have available their Higg Index responses on water intensity and factory locations.reported data
  2. This can be overlaid with Aqueduct’s river basin risk ratings to see which factories are in areas that have a high water risk.

Aqueducts river basin risk.jpg

3. Using Tableau software it is then possible to assess the potential interventions for these “hotspot” areas, both by the magnitude of the intervention impact and the payback period.

tableau data intervention.png

4. To implement these initiatives requires engagement with the supply chain. Higg data can show the level of engagement and initiatives already undertaken across the supply chain, helping shape your strategy across key hotspots and suppliers.

tracking and target setting chart

5. Once initiatives have been implemented it's important to bring it back to your water stewardship strategy plan to reassess the effectiveness against your initial criteria. This is a key step to make continuous improvements in your business operations and suppy chain management. 

water stewardship 2.png

This is of course just an oversimplified example, but the power and skill of visualizing big data to provide multiple facets, improve decision making and greatly increase transparency should not be underestimated.

*All data used in these examples is illustrative only.

Anthesis has a long track record of supporting the apparel and footwear industries and prides itself on collecting, managing, analyzing and visualizing big data. If you would like further information or are interested in a demonstration of what data visualization could do for you please contact Honor Cowen or Susan Harris on the contact form below and we will be in touch. 

Take a look at our sustainable apparel and textiles resource page for much more information on how your company can meet growing consumer expectations and reduce your risk at the same time. 



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