ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. Here, Aylin Basom, CEO of software solutions and data intelligence platform Supplier.io, discusses the need for diverse sourcing and transparency.
Name: Aylin Basom
What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?
For over 20 years, Supplier.io has supported responsible sourcing for companies across all industries. Last year, our customers spent over $120 billion with diverse companies, including small, women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, and disabled-owned businesses. That spend has supported over 1 million jobs and generated over $23 billion in tax revenue for those communities.
What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes?
I support companies that share my vision of a more equitable and sustainable society, and always look for sustainable, socially responsible, and diverse brands. I also believe in a “buy less, choose wisely” philosophy. Instead of buying in large quantities, I like investing in fewer, high-quality pieces that last longer. I also try to air dry my clothes as much as possible, which not only increases the lifespan of those clothes but reduces energy consumption. Any pieces that I no longer utilize are donated instead of thrown away.
How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping?
Working for Supplier.io, I have the benefit of accessing our incredibly thorough database of diverse, socially responsible and environmentally friendly companies, which makes this research a seamless task for myself and our customers.
Practicing what we preach is the first thought of every decision we make. Recently, we needed to identify a partner to work with on a rebranding initiative. We looked on our database and found a company that aligned with our values—a fantastic marketing firm that was not only great to work with but also woman-owned and local.
Something else that always informs my purchase decisions is whether brands are using sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing processes. Checking certifications and labels like Fair Trade and Global Organic Textile Standard is a small task for Supplier.io’s database but has a huge impact on where our customers and I choose to put our spend.
Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?
Personally, I prioritize recyclable and biodegradable, free-of-harmful-chemical products. So much of what we use ends up down the drain, and that causes significant harm to aquatic life. Finding beauty products that are not tested on animals is equally important to me.
Company-wide, Supplier.io’s priority mirrors that of our customers—sourcing products, materials and services from socially and environmentally responsible organizations. We provide a platform for over 5 million diverse, sustainable and socially responsible suppliers, making it easy for companies to find new supply chain partners and ultimately to see the environmental and social impact of their spend. That includes the ability to calculate their Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, which is notoriously difficult to track but plays a major role in the environmental impact of your supply chain.
What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion/accessories sourcing?
The biggest misconception about sustainability in fashion/accessories sourcing is that the environmental impact of a garment or accessory depends on its material or components (like recycled plastic, for example). There are other supply chain processes, like manufacturing and transportation, that have as big an environmental and social impact as raw materials and components. Another is that recycled materials are intrinsically better for the environment, while in reality, recycling often comes at a large cost to the local environment.
Consumers need to look critically at the supply chains of the brands they purchase from, because there is a lot that’s hidden from view. Some fast-fashion garments are flown to stores in the U.S., generating a lot of GHG emissions along the way. The use of forced labor in supply chains has grown and has led to countless atrocities. True sustainability is social and economic-oriented as well as environmental: ethical labor practices, fair wages, and community engagement are as crucial as environmental considerations. At Supplier.io, we believe we can play a key role in identifying diverse, socially responsible and environmentally friendly companies, and helping companies use their substantial spending power to amplify responsible sourcing practices.
What is your company’s latest ESG-related initiative?
For over 20 years we’ve provided some of the world’s biggest companies, from Fortune 1000 to 60 percent of the Billion Dollar roundtable, with the tools to identify diverse suppliers, analyze and accurately report on their spend, and measure the economic impact that spending power has on the communities they serve.
Our recent partnership with B Corp is a perfect example of this: B Corp’s rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability embodies our commitment to social responsibility, and aligns perfectly with our mission to amplify our own social offerings. Working with B Corp enables our customers to not only identify who their social suppliers are, but measure their spend and identify new suppliers all through our platform.
To that end, we’ve expanded the environmental metrics available on Supplier.io’s platform. Clients can now find sustainable suppliers within our database, making it easier to align procurement decisions with corporate ESG goals. The same platform that allows them to track, analyze and measure their social impact now does the same for measuring their environmental impact.
We’ve invested in our capabilities to create a tool that allows our clients to track the greenhouse gas emissions from their purchased goods and services. This allows them to identify the top emitters in their supply chains, benchmark against their industry peers, and run time-based tracking of emissions for trend analysis.
Our platform doesn’t just offer data; we offer insights. With the ability to set sustainability goals, track progress, and derive actionable intelligence, our clients can initiate corrective measures that create not just a greener supply chain, but a more sustainable future.
As consumers become more aware of worker conditions and how clothing is produced, how can the industry best spread the word on progress?
We believe the power of transparency holds the key to progress. Supplier.io’s extensive database helps companies see deeper into their supply chain, which consumers can use to validate their claims of responsible business practices. For companies, that’s a substantial competitive advantage.
Companies need to publish annual sustainability and social responsibility reports to publicly account for their efforts, improvements and future goals related to worker conditions, environmental practices and more.
Supplier.io’s customers use our reporting tools to compile and present these reports, drawing on real, actionable data. Leveraging detailed insight and enriched, accurate data is central to building the transparency, active communication, and collaboration necessary for creating trust with consumers and demonstrating authentic progress.
What do you consider to be the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?
Despite growing consumer demand for transparency, many brands have been slow to provide clear insights into their supply chains. This has sometimes concealed poor labor practices and environmental degradation.
Brands could have taken a more proactive role in educating consumers about the environmental and social impacts of their purchases, fostering a culture of conscious consumption as well as a culture of transparency, so consumers are emboldened to use their purchase power to hold companies accountable.