Responsible sourcing is a concept that one might think should have always been a business priority. It entails taking into account the environmental, social and economic impacts when sourcing for your company and selecting suppliers. Just think — sourcing responsibly and sustainably means ensuring your materials are available for future use, which not only involves resource availability, but proper working conditions for the people behind our products. It makes complete business sense but, strangely enough, this is a new idea that many sustainable fashion companies aim to implement and communicate to their customers.

Responsible sourcing has a number of benefits. It can help a brand minimize operational risks, reduce cost and increase revenue and competitiveness by tapping into the sustainability market. It’s important to note that, on average, 66% of consumers will pay extra for products and services from socially responsible companies and 67% of consumers prefer to work for socially responsible companies. Does incorporating responsible sourcing sound like a good idea yet?

We’ve compiled a few simple tips for you to start thinking about how to implement responsible sourcing into your sustainable fashion business.

1. Research what materials are most important to your business

Understand the origin of the textiles and resources used. First, this will give you an idea of whether any of your materials are at a high risk of either negative environmental or social impacts. Second, this will open doors to the possibility of incorporating alternative, more eco-friendly materials for clothing, like hemp or linen. Doing a feasibility assessment of these new, sustainable materials for your company will allow you to weigh the pros and cons of making concrete changes to your procurement processes.

2. Social assessments are your friend

Regularly analyzing the working conditions along your entire value chain minimizes risk for legal implications concerning human rights and allows you to ensure your own code of ethics is being upheld. If you do not have a code of ethics, sit down with your team or a third party to outline the principles you hope to maintain within your organization. Also, think of creating a tailored questionnaire for your own operations, as well as your suppliers. This is particularly helpful if you are a small brand and do not yet have the capacity to audit your suppliers in person.

3. Communicate your responsible sourcing initiatives loud and proud BUT be honest and transparent

Today, consumers are becoming very aware of greenwashing. It is better to express your weaknesses and plan of action to correct any errors than attempting to blow your strengths out of proportion. Plan to publicly  publish your responsible sourcing strategy and any policies surrounding it, including your code of ethics.

Responsible sourcing entails a lot more than saying you take the environment into account when procuring materials. It takes careful planning, assessing and correcting—not just once, but constantly. After all, sustainability is an ever-changing and evolving field. By taking responsible sourcing seriously, you can expect improved supplier relationships and increased brand loyalty. As part of the larger sustainable fashion movement, you will be a catalyst for the change to a more eco-friendly and ethical industry.