Fashion brands are more committed than ever to understanding and reducing their environmental and negative social impact.
The urgency of cutting carbon emissions is clearer than ever, especially after COP26. Consumers are now more likely to ask brands who made their clothes and under what conditions and are increasingly aware of issues like pollution and water usage in manufacturing. Regulation is adding additional pressure. In the UK this includes the Competition and Markets Authority’s Green Claims Code, which seeks to verify claims about a ‘sustainable’ product’s environmental impact and may fine brands that fail to meet its standards.
When it comes to understanding how and where brands need to improve, traceability is the key – but they must also be able to analyse and act on the data they gather.
Achieving the level of transparency that brands need can be fraught with challenges. Often the biggest obstacle is having deep oversight of distributed global supply chains: beyond deciding what data to capture and how to use it in decision-making, how can brands collect and verify the right information? And how can they demonstrate their progress to customers?
Enter Bendi. Founded in 2020, the startup is on a mission to provide an integrated system to help brands capture, analyse and act on data from their supply chains. The cloud-based app is designed to integrate with existing systems, including those used by suppliers around the world, to create a single point of truth for sustainability data.
“We’re seeing that to set, track and reach sustainability goals brands need help in understanding the data points that act as the foundations of their strategy,” explains Ben Norsworthy, Bendi’s co-founder. “Without building a robust data foundation a brand is unable to have an informed conversation.”
With over 25 years’ experience in strategy, fashion, climate change, sustainability and technology between them, Ben and his co-founder Mandeep Soor are developing Bendi with insight drawn from across the sector, in organisations from Burberry to Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda, as well as personal experience.
“As a child my mum worked as an informal seamstress – one of the many millions of women that make up the vast majority of fashion’s global workforce,” explains Mandeep. “For this reason Bendi’s holistic view of sustainability is so important to me, tracking and accounting for the industry’s impacts on people as equal to its environmental impact.”
Conversations with brands of all sizes have also highlighted common challenges that the startup seeks to address. Not every supplier will regularly use a desktop computer or have the connectivity, time or resources to enter data into systems. Bendi is developing solutions using everyday platforms like Whatsapp to remove barriers to participation, as well as offering explainer guides in multiple languages – a localised yet worldwide service.
Giving brands greater oversight over their own operations helps them identify areas where they can invest time and resources to meet their sustainability strategy goals. It also provides the tools to communicate them externally.
Bendi is built around a key set of data points derived from the requirements for industry bodies and standards including B Corp, The Higg Index, the Global Reporting Initiative and CDP, supporting brands that are seeking to report against these.
Brands can use the same information to build engagement and trust with customers through transparency, as Bendi integrates with e-commerce platforms to display sustainability data for each product on the webpage.
“In my work in different roles in the industry I’ve observed just how much sustainability literacy varies,” says Ben. “Equally, navigating sustainability claims as a consumer can be confusing. Given my background in communications, for me education and storytelling are an important part of Bendi’s work.”
Mandeep and Ben are focused on understanding from brands and manufacturers throughout the supply chain how they can build the most useful tools to answer common sustainability questions. As they move from startup to scaleup, and as businesses shift toward factoring sustainability into all brand decisions, the founders are keen to ensure Bendi is a vital part of brands’ business intelligence.
“Many brands we’ve spoken to realise there is no silver bullet,” Mandeep adds. “But better understanding of data is key to getting comfortable in becoming more transparent.”