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This case discussion reviews sustainability in the UK and international textile industry. While these markets have different structure, there are a number of emerging issues affecting the clothing industry including the rise in demand for cheaply made and imported second hand clothes. At the same time, these products have different life cycle and their increased accumulation leads to challenges such as high volume of waste and toxic products released to the environment (Woolridge, et.al 2006). These issues bring about environmental and sustainability concerns.
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Sustainability in the textile industry involves efforts by businesses and government parastatals to set up reliable supply chain that ease the transfer of products from one level of production to the final consumer with minimal effect on the environment (Allwood et al. 2008). Unlike previous supply management and operations, today consumerism has a different characteristics that force suppliers to adhere to required industrial regulations, operational standards and quality threshold, as well as venturing to sustainable operations for instance sustainable investment, sustainable product strategy, corporate social responsibility, sustainable performance evaluation, and creation of sustainable supply chains. Arguably, the textile industry is considered one of the most polluting industry across the globe as well as in the UK. At the same time, the textile and clothing industry contributes to about seven percent of the total global export, where the majority of textile and clothing production are based in china, and other western counterparts including USA, Germany, and Italy. The adoption of free trade operations across the globe has contributed to reduced prices of products in the industry. At the same time, industrial activities including use of toxic substances and energy encourages combustion of fossil fuels to offer electricity for production, heating water, and laundry (Brown, 2015). While farmers have been famed to use different chemicals and agricultural products, textile and cloth manufacturing corporations have been reported to use pre-treatment chemicals, printing and dying products that harm environmental sustainability.
At the same time, the increased production and sale of textile and cloths has led to accumulation of waste volumes especially in the fast growing fashion industry in the UK and around the globe, and extensive use of water in cotton plantations threatening the supply of water. As a result, consumers express their concerns for the growing number of threats to the environment and globe due to increased use of toxic substances that erode the environment. While various suppliers have imposed good practice to elevate labor standards and other sustainable operations during their supply operations, there is little transmission of these practices across the supply chain system hence concerns about child labor and working hours, workers and consumer safety, and sustainability in the industry. Based on Turker and Altuntas, (2014) discussion, another concern for sustainability is the need to control the volume of cloths material that pass though United Kingdom and other parts of the globe. According to research, more than 3.5 tons of textile and cloths amounting to about 55kg for each person pass through the UK every year. The majority of these products include imported textile, imported and intermediate products, yarns, fibres, and manmade fabrics.
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In order to understand the issue of sustainability in the UK clothing industry, one must simulate cycles that show the process followed by products and manufacturers ion efforts to establish a complete supply chain. This section considers designing process involving a T-shirt, carpet, and a blouse to develop a clear understanding of sustainability in the global clothing industry. The UK and global market features different cloths and textile products that are affected by different market dynamics such as market prices and consumer preference, changing consumer behavior and design patterns, and innovation. At the same time, the product design and production depends on the type of the product for instance t-shirt, carpet, or blouse, the material used for instance cotton or nylon, and different technologies employed in the production activities (Kawamura, 2011). Here, companies are forced to use new technology in order to improve performance and competition, while developing and small countries have competitive pricing strategies due to low cost of production and increased access to recent technology. In the UK manufacture consumer tailor made products that offer authentic designs and use of technical fibres, developing high quality products and use of environmental friendly products, and exploiting innovation in the industry. However, improved performance in the sector for instance increased use of energy and novel technology can leave to adverse implications on the environment thereby affecting the sustainability of the designing activities (Kawamura 2011). The high volume of products being traded at different markets offers challenges related to disposing the high volume of cloths per person, the need for re-use and recycling these products, and identification of alternative production models that improve performance and development objectives.
Marketing and Selling
Consumer behavior and purchasing patterns play an important role in defining the product marketing and sales operations where large and small corporations sell products at different levels of the market operations (Niinimäki and Hassi 2011). These include big corporations for instance amazon which transport products across different countries, as well as middle men and businesses that import cheaply produced textile and cloth products from the US, Italy, China, and other leading producers at large volumes and sell small quantities to prospective buyers for profit. A key trend both at the local markets and the international textile industry is the growing demand for cheaply priced and affordable products as well as stocking of fashionable and disposable clothing’s. The UK market is dominated by corporations such as Inditex, Topshop, and H&M that stock cheap and fashionable products. In order to effectively compete in the global market, these companies must establish fast supply and replacement of existing products, respond to trends and smart purchasing where the number of irrelevant products is increasing, and set up sustainable supply chain operations to improve short-term and long-term flexibility. As a result, many buyers demand for second hand clothes.
New Product and Sourcing Materials
Many products in the industry can be made in similar fashion due to access to technology and different fabrics. The most common raw materials include wool, cotton silk, and flax among other products. According to MacCarthy and Jayarathne, (2012) man-made innovations have also contributed to increased production using polyester, acetate, polyacryl, and polyamide where the actual percentage of synthetic fiber is small to reduce the cost incurred in production. Here, the question is to whether the use of polymers in addition to synthetic fibre has adverse effects on the life of the products or may lead to negative implications on the community. At the same time, this case assumes that these products follow different life stages and may end up producing toxic substances at a particular life stage hence increased environmental degradation and harm. The use of alternative raw material for production activities for instance switching from natural to manmade fibre or vice versa can impact the environment especially where there is excessive use of polyamide hence climate change, reduced use of natural products and acceleration in the production of toxic substances, and increased waste (Pretious and Love 2006). At the same time, it should be understood that substituting manmade products for natural fibre for instance increased use of cotton increases the cost of production thereby forcing buyers to switch to cheaper alternatives made with manmade fibre.
Selecting a Manufacturer
In efforts to set up sustainable operations, corporations are forced to identify the most reliable manufacture who creates products based on their demand and type of product stocked in their shops. There are different manufacturers such as the one who use man made and synthetic fiber at different combinations to develop different products. In fact, many buyers are expressing concerns over buying environmentally friendly products and would offer higher pay for products that do not have negative implications on the environment. As a result, suppliers must carefully identify what their manufacturers use in production activities before stocking products (Davis, Mullet, and Bryant, 2016). The commonly used fibre include the Ingeo which is famed to be easy to use in the manufacturing process due to its natural state and little effects on the environment. At the same time, different companies use different manufacturing processes for instance the TENCEL process which is designed to reduce the volume of waste released to the atmosphere and toxic substances. According to De Brito, Carbone, and Blanquart, (2008), this distinct production process is considered effective due to recycling of 98% of the solvents used in the production process, creation of high quality fabrics using natural smart functions, and closed loop cycle that eliminates chances of raw material or waste product. Understandably, the supplier must collaborate these needs with cost variables to identify the most suitable manufacturer. In addition, they must consider the implications of manufacturer’s production activities on the environment in efforts to appeal to the target consumers, create high quality products, and limit the release of toxic products into the environment.
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Arguably, companies as well as consumer across the globe are increasingly becoming aware about corporate responsibility and establishing sustainable operations across different sectors (Brown 2015). Sustainability in the textile industry involves efforts by businesses and government parastatals to set up reliable supply chain that ease the transfer of products from one level of production to the final consumer with minimal effect on the environment. Unlike previous supply management and operations, today consumerism has a different characteristics that force suppliers to adhere to required industrial regulations, operational standards and quality threshold, as well as venturing to sustainable operations for instance sustainable investment, sustainable product strategy, corporate social responsibility, sustainable performance evaluation, and creation of sustainable supply chains (Tokatli 2004). In efforts to set up sustainable operations, corporations are forced to identify the most reliable manufacture who creates products based on their demand and type of product stocked in their shops. In addition, they must consider the implications of manufacturer’s production activities on the environment in efforts to appeal to the target consumers, create high quality products, and limit the release of toxic products into the environment.
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