Avery Dennison tackles apparel supply chain sustainability

The Senior Director of Sustainability and Compliance for Apparel at Avery Dennison Debbie Shakespeare delves into apparel supply chain sustainability

The fashion industry is plagued by ethical issues and waste that cannot simply be eliminated by paying more for a product. Although more consumers are drawn to items that are more sustainable—providing they meet requirements in terms of quality—companies must get a look into their supply chains to tackle the historical problems. 

Debbie Shakespeare is the Senior Director of Sustainability and Compliance, Apparel Solutions at Avery Dennison, and an expert in apparel supply chain management and sustainability strategy. She has been driving meaningful and impactful results within the Apparel Solutions division of Avery Dennison for the past decade. 

Shakespeare ensures Avery Dennison is on track to deliver on its 2030 goals, meeting all the appropriate environmental and social sustainability standards. During her time with Avery Dennison, Shakespeare has established a procurement organisation within Hong Kong and China. This included capacity-building and integration of Avery Dennison’s supply chain requirements for sustainability and compliance.

A critical part of Shakespeare’s current role is around ensuring Avery Dennison is on track to deliver on its short and long-term ambitious carbon commitments, and Shakespeare was a key business leader in developing these commitments, and gaining SBTi accreditation for the targets. Shakespeare serves as a key sustainability spokesperson for Avery Dennison and has spoken at COP and the United Nations. Originally from the UK, she currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts.

Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of sustainability and compliance, Apparel Solutions, Avery Dennison

What is the relationship between sustainability and digital currently?

Fashion sustainability and digital technology are tightly intertwined. Digital platforms and tools are driving sustainability in the fashion industry through various ways. 

Perhaps most importantly, technology has gifted the fashion world with supply chain transparency. Digital solutions like blockchain and cloud data platforms enable brands to track and share supplier data - from the raw materials used, to the working conditions in factories. Thanks to transparency, ethical sourcing and production become possible. 

Eco-labelling laws are fast approaching, so solutions such as digital triggers in clothes and Digital Product Passports (DPPs) are likely to become the norm within the next decade. DPPs will be the key to the circular economy, helping consumers extend the life of garments, and ensuring end-of-life recycling is carried out correctly.

What is your opinion on legislation vs company responsibility and ownership of the climate crisis and sustainability strategy?

Fashion retailers are now aware that legislative change is coming, so not taking responsibility will lead to fines, which will drive up prices for shoppers. Few fashion brands want to go down that route. Also, the majority want to match the mood of their target audiences, and are investing in sustainability and circularity to protect their brand image, move with the times, and meet ESG goals. 

There’s no denying that the costs of becoming greener lead to higher price tags on garments. Well-heeled shoppers can afford to pay a premium for sustainable fashion, and so luxury brands are able to lead the way. However, fast fashion retailers have more of a dilemma, and for this reason have been slower to evolve their sourcing and manufacturing practices. Over time with the right level of investment and consumer education, economies of scale will make the business case for sustainable garments more palatable. We need industrial-scale textile recycling to take off, so that recycled fabrics become affordable to all.

How can companies like Avery Dennison address the challenge of growth and decarbonisation?

As a global manufacturer, supplying garment labels and embellishments to the fashion sector, we are adopting sustainable materials and production processes, with the aim of continuing to grow profits, but reducing our carbon impact at the same time. Our carbon reduction targets are SBTi accredited.

Specifically, we are switching to recycled fabrics where we can, and are implementing efficient manufacturing methods, such as 3D sampling and on-demand production. Data analytics informs our forecasting and minimises waste and energy consumption. By investing in renewable energy sources at our facilities around the world, and optimising supply chain logistics, we can further reduce emissions. 

Perhaps most importantly we are embracing circular economy principles, and helping hundreds of fashion brands do the same using our Digital ID and smart labelling technology. We also invest in textile recycling start-ups such as Circ, and take part in collaborative industry projects such as TEXAID, which are seeking practical solutions to the carbon challenge fashion faces.
Is circularity the solution to sustainability?

Yes, adopting a circular economy is widely accepted as the only way to achieve fashion sustainability. Circular fashion aims to create a closed-loop system where garments are designed for longevity, repairability, and recyclability. It promotes practices like repair, upcycling, recycling, and resale. By extending the lifespan of garments and minimising waste, circularity significantly reduces the fashion industry's environmental impact. 

It also aligns with consumer preferences for eco-friendly choices. In a world increasingly concerned with cutting carbon, circular fashion represents a viable and necessary path forward to address the industry's sustainability challenges.

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