Under Armour connects with suppliers to uncover potential hazards

Building effective chemical transparency takes a variety of strategies, see how Under Armour is using Supply Chain Connect to approach it at the start of their journey. 

Like many other global apparel and footwear brands, Under Armour is continuing to increase and build out its sustainability efforts. As part of this, they know they have to enhance supply chain transparency in order to stay ahead of regulations and create safer and more chemically sustainable products.  

However, implementing additional supply chain engagement while balancing costs and product development timelines are daunting, especially for brands that may not be large enough to make supply chain demands. Fortunately, Under Armour has been able to leverage Supply Chain Connect to help them start this proces

s. With it, Under Armour has been able to: 

  • Initially engage internal teams to align on chemicals management strategy 
  • Implement 2 different supply chain tactics to access information 
  • Easily communicate with suppliers and internal teams about formulations and alternatives 

Read on to learn more about Under Armour’s experience with Supply Chain Connect from Lisa Clerici, Senior Manager Global Restricted Substances Compliance at Under Armour. 

1. Why are you implementing a supply chain engagement strategy?

“This is part of our broader sustainability goals. We realize that in order to do businessespecially in places like Europewe really have to be sustainable. The consumers are asking for it, and NGOs are asking for it. And then of course, there are regulations, like the PFAS regulations coming through, which is just a small little section of things, but there’s such a push for it, and it’s just going to keep going and going. Recently, we were talking about the number of regulations being kind of overhauled, and it’s a lot. Looking at just Europe alone, they’re reviewing REACH, CLP, implementing new laws, and that’s all at once. So, if you‘re not on top of your game and being proactive, you‘re going to be left behind. 
That said, we should put the strategy in context by understanding the size of Under Armour and how that impacts what we’re able to do. We’re much globally smaller than [name of large global footwear brand], for instance, I’m a team of one, and we recently hired a Director of Circularity, as well as a person to help with traceability. And, because we want visibility all the way down to the bottom tier to avoid any surprises, that means we need to probably work with a couple hundred suppliers each season, so it’s a huge undertaking. So, we’re moving in the right direction, but compared to the power that big brands have, it definitely can feel a little like we’re playing catch up, and I don’t think we’re the only brand that feels that way.” 

The team has saved me so much time because I can just take 5 minutes, submit a request, and know that you guys have it 100 percent.

2. How have you started to approach supplier engagement?

To kick off our supplier engagement strategy, I started with our innovation team to look at new materials because that seemed like the easiest way to get ahead of problems and a good team to show how Supply Chain Connect works. For the suppliers that have engaged so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a few. Some of them have a pretty good testing cycle, like testing quarterly, or more often, or maintaining their own RSL. 
That said, we have encountered some challenges getting some suppliers engaged. For instance, we’ll send out invites for Supply Chain Connect, but suppliers are so busy sometimes they get ignored. We’re going to keep trying, though. I think that with Under Armor joining ZDHC, suppliers are going to quickly realize that we’re serious about our sustainability journey and about the chemicals that we’re using in our products. 
So, this year, while we continue to implement on the innovation side, I’m also going to start engaging on existing materials, focusing on the top mills that cover the majority of our products, as well as graphics teams, for instance, to work on all of our inks and dyes. A few of those suppliers I feel confident will be easy to onboard, and then we can just work our way outward from there.”

3. How has Supply Chain Connect been able to support this journey and help with the challenges?

The team has been incredible in helping us with the implementation process. From answering supplier’s questions to trainings to consistently following up with suppliers and walking them through the platform, the team has been great. That has saved me so much time because I can just take five minutes, submit a request, and I can walk away and know that you guys have it 100 percent. 
For suppliers that have engaged, we’ve been able to use Supply Chain Connect to see if there are list hits and understand what the issue is without having to see any specific CAS RN or supplier CBI, and we can go back to them to say we need them to bring us something different. We’ve also had instances with new formulations that we were able to assess, and they actually turned out to be really good to use, so proactively, we can put that in a library to create new materials with these safe formulations in the future.”  

Achieve & maintain transparency

Interested in engaging your supply chain in your sustainable chemistry strategy? Want to create greater transparency to build a more proactive product development process? 

Contact us to learn more about connecting with your supply chain through Supply Chain Connect.