Questions to ask your suppliers to help get you started
You have determined your brand strategy for sourcing more sustainable cotton and decided on the priority suppliers you will approach for support and cooperation. Now it’s time to explain your aims and make sure they understand the targets you are working to meet.
One priority for this stage is to map your existing supply chains to identify any potential disruption that may come because of changing areas of supply and fibre mixes.
Here are some of the key questions to ask your suppliers:
Questions your supplier may ask you
Your suppliers will have their own set of partners that supply their business, and – like you – they probably have preferred brokers or suppliers for cotton. This may become a barrier if your expectations create an impact upon on their costs or lead times.
Understand the business case for your suppliers
It may seem obvious to you why your suppliers would benefit from sourcing more sustainable cotton. However, many brands are either approaching these discussions via a sustainability team, or in a piecemeal way that gives little confidence to suppliers that their investment of time or money will be worthwhile.
Taking the time to understand the wider business case for sustainable cotton for your suppliers will be invaluable for achieving your sourcing goals.
CONTINUING YOUR RELATIONSHIP
This is perhaps the most obvious business benefit for your suppliers. If they can help you source more sustainable cotton, you will be able to continue to purchase garments from them. If your goal is to keep increasing the amount of sustainable cotton you source, make sure you communicate this ‘bigger picture’ to your suppliers.
BETTER QUALITY RELATIONSHIP
The shift to more sustainable cotton will require greater collaboration between your business and your suppliers. Opening new channels of communication will help you build more transparent and rewarding business relationships. Your understanding and sympathy for the issues they may well face as they accommodate your demands is important, particularly if you are also asking them to increase their transparency on the nature of the relationships in their own supply chain.
WELL POSITIONED FOR INDUSTRY SHIFT
As you are no doubt aware, the garment and textile industry is shifting towards sourcing more sustainable cotton. By helping your suppliers meet your needs, you are also helping them prepare to meet the needs of other brands on similar journeys. This puts them in a good position to benefit as demand for more sustainable cotton grows.