H&M established new supply chain industry standards with a recent announcement that it would hand over in-depth supplier visibility with a supplier factory map located on the clothing manufacturer's website.
Chad W. Autry, a FedEx-endowed professor in the online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, discusses in a June 2019 Sustainable Brands piece how this level of supplier information sharing is unprecedented and there's a reason why. It's evident H&M understands the road to transparency is—as Autry describes—a multi-step process.
H&M has successfully completed these steps, and if competitive companies desire to successfully mirror H&M's efforts, they must follow suit. Autry describes the following steps:
- Establish company values: Companies must first establish the reason for creating visibility, including a vision and goals that align with the company's brand.
- Create incremental visibility: Supplier transparency is a fluid process that often requires coordination with local governments and stakeholders. It's not an overnight process.
- Identify and address pain points: Transparency can be achieved when companies focus on areas of improvement and implement necessary changes.
- Monitor throughout the future: Once a company achieves a certain level of transparency, it can only be maintained if it's continuously and properly monitored.
With sustainability becoming a priority for supply chain companies across the board, understanding how to establish and maintain visibility is crucial. Autry says, "by establishing strong values, creating a visible work culture, and addressing current weak points with the understanding that new pain points may arise in the future, companies can establish transparency that benefits themselves, their partners and the public at large."