Earlier this year the Group was excited to welcome a fresh face to the team.
Adam Lloyd joined the Cotton On Group as its new Sustainability Manager, a position within the Risk and Compliance team based at the retailer’s headquarters in Geelong.
Adam brings with him over 25 years’ experience in the industry, spanning across specialty retail and large-scale department stores. Over the course of his career, Adam has gained invaluable experience in a wide range of functions including design, buying, merchandising and more recently, ethical sourcing and sustainability.
So what are Adam’s thoughts on sustainability at the Cotton On Group and trends across the retail industry? Read more in the interview below.
1. You recently attended the Cotton On Group’s 2017 supplier conference in Shanghai, China. How did you find the experience and what were some key insights?
The experience was just fantastic. Having only been in the business a short period, it was great to be able to meet the key people involved within our supply chain and to see firsthand the positive changes the Group is implementing within this space.
The scale and size of the business blew me away, however the biggest key learning was seeing how sustainability and an ethical supply chain is interwoven throughout the business – it was evident that it’s part of who we are, and it’s important to us.
2. What do you see as the biggest ethical achievements of the Cotton On Group to date?
The Group’s ethical targets put them in a unique space within Australia, which is a great achievement in itself.
Today we have a major focus on traceability, and have been working closely with our suppliers to better understand where and how our products are made, right through to raw materials. Our goal is complete end-to-end mapping of all suppliers, including raw materials by the end of 2018 and we’re well underway having publically disclosed 100% of our tier 1 supplier details.
We are also working towards having 100 per cent more sustainable cotton through our supply chain through our partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative and our own Kwale Cotton project in Kenya.
The Group continues to look for opportunities which positively impact the communities within its supply chain.
3. What does the future of ethical sourcing look like for the Cotton On Group?
We’re proud of what we have achieved to date through our Ethical Sourcing Program and various community initiatives but we know there is always more to be done in this space.
As we focus on the future, we are now looking towards tackling environmental issues such as recycling and waste management and how we can play our part for a better future. Working alongside key people, internally and externally, we are steadfast in making positive changes.
4. Upholding an ethical supply chain is challenging. How does the Group work towards this?
The Group upholds its level of supply chain ethics through its 14 Rules to Trade, which covers important issues like working conditions, banned materials, the prohibition of child labour, environmental practices and bribery and corruption.
Before partnering with a supplier, we ensure they understand and adhere to our 14 Rules To Trade, and each year we conduct hundreds of audits to ensure these Rules are upheld.
The strength and longevity of our supplier relationships, some of which have been with the business for over 20 years, underpins our entire ethical sourcing program. Through these relationships, we maintain a strong two-way dialogue and work together to ensure we’re operating ethically, responsibly and with integrity.
5. Have you seen a change in customer expectations in the ethics and sustainability space?
Yes – absolutely. We’re seeing a real shift in how customers are choosing to shop… gone are the days when customers simply purchased items based on price. Now customers expect to know more about how their clothes are made and they’re looking to brands and businesses that are doing the right thing and playing an active role in ensuring they have a positive social and environmental impact.
6. In your experience, what do retailers do well and what does the industry need to work on?
Many retailers are taking differing approaches to tackling ethics and sustainability within the rag trade.
I believe we need to learn to work together on some of the challenges we are currently facing. There is a great opportunity to collaborate with other retailers on topics such as workers rights, the environment, sustainable cotton, traceability and battling industry perceptions.
We have built some great relationships with other retailers and NGOs to share and work through a number of issues currently affecting the retail industry, but there is a huge opportunity to do more.
7. How can companies balance delivering products as fast as possible with being ethical and sustainable?
I believe retail businesses need to be conscious of what their supply chain can do. When businesses don’t know if their suppliers and factories are appropriately equipped to undertake the task at hand, that’s where it can go wrong. In addition to this, ensuring orders, volumes and delivery expectations are realistic for their suppliers, will give retailers greater confidence in their supply chains.
All businesses have different impacts within the ethics and sustainability space, however our priority is to have a deeper understanding of our supply chain and determine how we can have a greater social and environmental impact through our operations.
Since day one we have encouraged strong two-way dialogue with our suppliers to ensure the environments in which our products are made are safe, fair and sustainable. Operating ethically and doing the right thing is incredibly important to us, not only because it’s what our customers want, but because we think it’s the right way to do business.