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Personal Insights

Reboot The Earth Challenge: Look Good and Save The World!

Problem Identification

Recently, the world witnessed the devastating effects of the burning of the Amazon Rainforest, which supplies approximately 20% of the world’s oxygen. The fire engulfed neighbouring cities in darkness and destroyed the homes of many wildlife, local, and indigenous people. Although the fire was caused by deforestation, it raised a good question:

How should companies today design their supply chain in order to lessen the environmental impact to the greater ecosystem?

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the 2016 total global export for clothing and related products is 1.17 trillion dollars. The supply chain for the garment industry is very complex and resource-intensive. It is also the 3rd largest industry for water consumption.

The tightening of environmental regulations have pushed companies to strive for environmentally-friendly supply chains.

A good example is the United Nation’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which worked with major fashion stakeholders to strategize and identify ways to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) by 30% from the industry by 2030.

Another example is an initiative from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation called the “Make Fashion Circular” campaign. This initiative is joined by big brands like Nike, Gap, H&M and Burberry to make fashion more sustainable through recycling raw materials.

However, there is still a long way to go for the fashion industry to become more aligned with sustainable practices. I have decided to focus on fashion in order to investigate how a sustainable supply chain system can help lessen environmental footprint.

SAC Main Dashboard

 

When designing my SAC dashboard, I wanted to focus on readability in order to highlight the urgency of this problem. I choose bright colours to achieve this and I also designed the dashboard so it reads like a story.

Visualization 1: Geo-Map of Manufacturing Activities

When trying to understand the distribution of textile manufacturers, I turned to raw data from the OEC. The data provided total export value of knit sweaters across the globe. After wrangling the data and adding a few additional columns, I was able to have a geospatial-ready dataset for analysis. Leveraging SAC, I was able to create the following geo-map of knit sweater export activities in order to understand the current global manufacturing landscape.

It was easy to visualize that China was the leading country in textile manufacturing.

Visualization 2: Top 10 Textile Trade Partners for China

I wanted to narrow my focus to China and understand their primary buyers for textile goods. I was able to find a worldwide trade activities dataset from World Bank Group. After adding a few filters on SAC, I was able to find the data I wanted: the top 10 textile and garment trade partners for China

 

From this, we can see that United States, Japan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong are some of the biggest buyers of garment goods from China. This led me to my next question: how has China’s garment industry advanced over the past few decades?

Unfortunately, after scavenging through the internet for days, I could not find a reliable data source that allowed me to analyze this. Ideally, I would have wanted data on water consumption in the textile manufacturing process and how that has changed over time. I also know that SAC has a predicative feature which I can use to make prediction on how water consumption will change in the future. This trend would have helped me accept / reject my initial hypothesis that technology and careful management of the supply chain process could lead to more efficient water usage in the textile industry.

As China is the leading manufacturing country right now, I would recommend focusing efforts on optimizing their supply chain. After some research, I believe that the next innovative leap in the textile industry would be developing and choosing better raw materials that are less resource-intensive. Recycling and re-purposing materials is also a trend for many brands.

Last Thoughts

It is easy for consumers to disregard the effects of climate change as it is difficult to witness the day-to-day changes to their lives.

However, once you plug the data into a visualization tool like SAC and add in the perspective of time, it becomes easy to understand the urgency of climate change and how it can quickly push to world to a “tipping point”, where climate change will become irreversible.

 

Data Sources Used:

International Labour Organization: http://www.ilo.org/global/industries-and-sectors/textiles-clothing-leather-footwear/lang–ja/index.htm

Observatory of Economic Complexity: https://oec.world/en/profile/hs92/6110/

References:

UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action: https://unfccc.int/climate-action/sectoral-engagement/global-climate-action-in-fashion/about-the-fashion-industry-charter-for-climate-action

Cleanclothes.org: Facts on the Garment Industry: https://cleanclothes.org/resources/publications/factsheets/general-factsheet-garment-industry-february-2015.pdf

FashionUnited: Global Fashion Industry Statistics: https://fashionunited.com/global-fashion-industry-statistics/

UNEnvironment: Why Fast Fashion Needs to Slow Down: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/blog-post/why-fast-fashion-needs-slow-down

3 Comments
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  • This is totally off topic, but since you started the blog mentioning the Amazon produces 20% of the worlds oxygen, I thought you might be interested in the following article from BBC World News.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49450925

    Have a look at the bit where they investigate whether the 20% figure is accurate or not. The answer surprised me greatly.

    It looks like this a case of someone famous makes up a figure and says it in a speech, other people repeat the figure without checking, and ten minutes later the whole world believes it as a hard fact.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t want the Amazon to burn to the ground, it is just an observation of how “facts” get spread.

    Cheersy Cheers

    Paul