Measuring Impact in the Textile Supply Chain

Reporting from the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference, in this article I cover the event “Measuring Impact in the Textile Supply Chain” with Jenn Swain (Jenn) from Burton, Tony Alvarez (Tony) from Volcom, and moderated by Mark Prosé from Control Union.


Jenn Swain, Global Senior Sustainability Manager confided in us to let us know that Burton pioneered the sport of snowboarding back in 1977, which has become a lifestyle brand. 

Burton has been a Bluesign® System Partner since 2011. Bluesign® materials are responsibly crafted in manufacturing processes that manage natural resources efficiently, produce cleaner air and water emissions, and use only those chemicals that are deemed safe for people and the planet.

We’re aiming for 100% bluesign® softgoods by winter 2021/22. This is an ambitious goal, as it pushes the boundaries of the bluesign® system to include new chemistry and material types. In doing so, we bring new supply chain partners into this responsible manufacturing system, which magnifies our impact.

Today, Burton is a Certified B Corporation.  They are moving to become a sustainable company by improving material choices on soft and hard goods. 

  • Burton has been developing this program for 18 months, and the process took about 12 months to complete
  • The first step was to provide suitable answers to over 240 pertinent questions
  • Legally and morally, they had to make a definite commitment 

Burton is concerned about the health and wellbeing of its employees and vendors.  They are also a member of the Fair Labor Association. This required adjusting to their supply chain to meet the standards of the association. 

Reuse, Rework, and Repair

Burton supports its customers by providing environmentally friendly means for product repairs. 

A major focus of Burton is the importance of chemistry in global warming, the solution is reducing their carbon footprint, which will reduce climate extremes “prolong the winters and save the environment.”  

Jenn referenced the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Chart that represents the textile supply chain (Supplier Tiers), detailing the complexities within the industry. 

Supply Chain Engagement

Some of their operating methods include:  ensuring the product quality; avoiding risks migration; maintaining supply stability; and sustainability.   

In 2017, China shut down tens of thousands of factories as part of a national effort to address pollution by the manufacturing sector. It’s estimated that 40% of all of China’s factories have been shut down at some point in order to be inspected by environmental bureau officials. And more than 80,000 factories have been hit with fines and criminal offenses as a result of their emissions.

Climate change is a direct hit to the sport that created their brand, this company is dependent on predictable winter conditions.  Such does not seem likely because of the effects of climate change. The company is working hard to sustain their business.

Burton has been utilizing the Quantis Evaluator which investigates the business and its sustainability.  The emphasis is working with suppliers to find clean and renewable energy sources. 

Burton has done a life cycle assessment and established a goal of a 20% reduction in its carbon footprint of its hardgoods between 2017 and 2022.

For Burton, the climate crisis is the most significant issue facing the planet.  Their goal is to Influence others to move forward on a sustainable path. 

The Whole brand story “Is more of an art than a science to build it in:  accepting short term costs for the long-term benefit.  Burton stresses the cost of doing business includes future vision and values, with foreseeable improvements.”


Tony Alvarez, VP Global Supply Chain, expressed he was honored to be on this panel at this conference.  

Since 2012, Volcom has been working quietly and diligently on SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

The main conclusion was that 65% of their impacts were coming from raw materials and production. 

Vision and Targets

This company strongly believes in the reduction of waste into our oceans.  They have established three pillars:

  • Responsible manufacturing
  • Supporting a clean environment
  • Beneficial Impact 

Their goal is to have 20% better fibers by 2020, with stronger and more integrated environmental messaging.  They are committed to taking steps to participate in this new economy. 

They are committed to social responsibilities that meet the requirements of the SB657 Supply Chain Act.

Volcom takes its supply chain very seriously and works with its vendors on education, information, and training to meet their SDG’s.  

They hold yearly sustainable supply chain meetings in China (the slide below is from the 2014 and 2018 meetings).  

Volcom’s farm to yarn initiative includes improving the quality of the product with full traceability.    

They have a partnership with CottonConnect, to transform the world’s cotton industry:  supporting women’s empowerment, including women in decision-making, as 90% of the workforce is female. 

Another initiative is the establishment of farmer business schools with a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability.    

Volcom recently launched the water aware program for its denim production.  They have reduced 13 liters of water from every pair of jeans. 

They have worked with Repreve to use over 30 million recycled bottles in their production.   For their women’s swimwear, they use Econyl (recycled nylon).     

Volcom is constantly pushing their suppliers to be better; asking them “What is the greater cost if they don’t do something.” “ROI (return on investment) is the story of what they are doing for the people”

Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference (TESC)

Other articles from the TESC which may be of interest to you:

The how-to of intelligent design built with Sustainability

Organic Cotton Proactive Planning by the People

The Positive Future of Sustainability and Organic Cotton

Author: Jeffrey Clark

A management professional with 25 years global experience working with fortune 500 and speciality brands, specializing in lean manufacturing, product, supply chain management, procurement, sourcing, and operations. Proven proactive leadership, vision, creative, and successful strategic business skills to drive revenue and profit growth in highly competitive domestic and global markets. A strong relationship builder, functions effectively as an integral member of a cohesive senior executive team. Proven ability to source, identify and capitalize on emerging trends and niche market opportunities.