How PLM Can Help Retailers Drive Sustainability Initiatives

Written By: Greg Kaminsky

Today’s fashion consumers are increasingly supportive of eco-friendly brands. While sustainability isn’t a top driver in purchase behavior, it does rank as a factor for a majority of shoppers.

According to a recent online survey of US millennials, 87% would pay more for a product that’s sustainable. From activewear companies to fast-fashion retailers, many brands are shifting towards more sustainable and environmentally conscious products. So how can your product lifecycle management (PLM) solution help drive sustainability initiatives?

Early-stage quality and compliance

Apparel brands have a set of criteria for the quality and compliance of their product lines and material vendors, and this is where sustainability initiatives should first factor into the product lifecycle. PLM solutions have the ability to incorporate sustainability into supplier compliance ratings, ensuring that vendors meet their requirements early in the design and development process.

Supply chain transparency

PLM solutions enable greater supply chain transparency, allowing retailers to identify eco-friendly suppliers when sourcing in-demand materials. More and more brands are looking to use recycled materials in their product designs, following companies like Allbirds, which hase expanded by building its reputation on quality and environmental responsibility. Retail PLM solutions make tasks like this much simpler, helping brands source from the right vendors to get their raw materials.

Machine learning for a smaller footprint

Machine learning helps retailers detect patterns they wouldn’t typically notice and offers automated recommendations to optimize the supply chain and product development process. This can help you quickly locate sustainable vendors and direct your business to suppliers that will reduce your environmental footprint. PLM solutions with embedded machine learning capabilities can quickly match you with the right suppliers so you don’t have to perform excessive research.

Digital design

3D design alleviates the need for designers to request physical samples, which reduces the need for air freight and minimizes pollution. Additionally, by using augmented reality (AR), designers can augment virtual models into their physical space to perform a line review without using any physical resources or materials, reducing the carbon footprint of brands and retailers globally.

Customer feedback

Getting feedback from your customers is important whether you have a sustainability initiative or not. PLM solutions allow you to bring that customer data directly into the product development process to inform your decisions. If customers love a certain feature, attribute, or material used for a sustainable product, then you’ll be able to build off that in your marketing and future designs.

On the flip side, if the recycled shoelaces you used in your latest shoe design threw people off, then you can go in a different direction next time. Having this kind of insight from customers only helps to give people what they want and reduce missteps that can result in overstock.

Sustainability reporting

Many retail brands are starting to provide annual sustainability reports for their product lines, some using the Higg Index which measures environmental impact among other things. PLM solutions can amplify the visibility of this data throughout the product lifecycle, making it easier to pass onto consumers or share internally by having a “single version of the truth” that every stakeholder can access.

Emerging technologies

Brands like Patagonia and Reformation are known for sustainability. Others may need to prove it to consumers. As we move into the future of retail, technologies like IoT and augmented reality can provide consumers with transparency into how their products are manufactured. 

For example, a consumer-facing AR experience could include information on how a product was sourced, making shoppers aware of the brand’s initiative to source products from eco-friendly suppliers. This data could come directly from the PLM solution if it has the capability to integrate with AR, giving your customers the power to speak with their wallets.

To learn more about how PLM is transforming the way retailers and brands design, develop, source, and sell products, watch this on-demand webinar featuring just-style and Capgemini:

retail transformation with PLM
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About the Author

Greg Kaminsky

Greg is an avid blogger interested in industrial innovation, technology, and the intersection between the two. As a Content Marketing Specialist for PTC, Greg is excited about how things like virtual and augmented reality, the internet of things, and predictive analytics are shaping the future of manufacturing.