Innovation power of fashion focal companies and participation in sustainability activities in their supply network

Harrie W.M. van Bommel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


During recent decades, the fashion/clothing sector has become an extremely complex global supply network. Garment production is mainly located in Asia, while many consumers live in Europe and the United States. In addition, materials (fibres) are bought on the world market. At the same time sustainability has become an important topic in the sector. It seems that companies no longer wonder whether or not to manage social and environmental aspects in their supply network but rather how to do so.

Several organisations have developed competing labels (product-related), guidelines, codes of conduct and certification schemes (organisation-related) to improve the performance of social and environmental aspects in the supply network. Approaches differ greatly, from cooperation to standardisation and coordination (Forman and Sogaard Jorgensen 2004; Søndergård et al. 2004; Allwood et al. 2007; De Brito et al. 2008; Profas 2008).

However, present activities seem to be building on ad hoc decisions and it is hard to distinguish systematic patterns and rational strategies. We do not yet understand sufficiently how global supply chains develop and how sustainable development is integrated in them. The Investment Climate Department of the World Bank Group (World Bank 2003) also concluded that the existing system of implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) in global supply chains may be reaching its limits in terms of its ability to deliver further sustainable improvements in social and environmental standards. Also the International Chamber of Commerce (2007) along with the Dutch Social and Economic Council (2008) have asked for more attention concerning the implementation of sustainability in supply networks.

This chapter reports on a study that addresses this issue in the fashion/clothing industry. Empirical research, based mainly on surveys and case studies, has up till now not succeeded in developing a strong theoretical basis. The frameworks found in the literature (for instance Sarkis 2003; Seuring and Müller 2008) are mainly descriptive, focusing on the pressures and incentives or the strategies and activities found in practice. Rarely do they address the question of why companies facing similar pressures and incentives choose different ambition levels, strategies and related activities. This process of strategy formulation and implementation is, therefore, mostly unexplored.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainability in fashion and textiles
EditorsMiguel Angel Gardetti, Ana Laura Torres
PublisherGreenleaf Publishing
ISBN (Print)978-1-906093-78-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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