Traceability and transparency in the textile supply chain are some of the most essential foods for thought of the moment in the industry now. With the environment at stake, it is now on the industry to change its ways of manufacturing in order to reduce its effect on the climate.
Traceability is one of the key factors that comes into account for the textile industry, trying to achieve sustainability across the value chain. In a recent study, it was revealed that the market of fast fashion has declined from $35.8 billion dollars to $31.4 billion dollars from 2019 to 2020. The depreciation is the work of COVID-19, courtesy of which the perception of customers has changed a lot.
Today the customer is mindful. They are more focused on their approach and want to account for each penny spent. They do not want to mindlessly splurge but, mindfully pay for things that are absolutely necessary. This has impacted the fashion, apparel, and textile industry as a whole. The growth of the fast-growing fashion market has also decreased with the growth of a more sustainable business approach. More than before, today the customer wants to know who made the product, who is going to be benefitted from the product, also the origin, materials, and history of the product. In such a scenario, traceability becomes the hero we may have ignored for so long.
Traceability in a nutshell
Traceability boils to the fact or the ability to trace the whole lifecycle of a product from the raw material to the consumer, to disposal and recycling. Traceability provides information about not only the source locations but also the impacts the product is having on the environment and people of the society. Traceability in itself pushes for a more transparent textile supply chain. The lack of transparency became a big point of discussion in 2013, through the Rana Plaza tragedy. This is when a Dhaka garment factory collapsed (also known as Rana Plaza collapse) with a death toll of 1,134 and 2500 injured, due to a structural fault in the building. This incident was an eye-opener for the industry and it helped the industry understand and take social responsibilities to adapt to the rules of transparency of the supply chain.
However, now more than ever traceability has become a conscious topic of discussion among all stakeholders of the industry. They are looking for ways to adapt to more transparent functioning to give the customer a complete sustainable package with every purchase.
Let’s ponder on the list of technology available globally, that the supply chain can adapt to embrace traceability.
FibreTrace to bring in traceability right at the fibre level
FibreTrace, founded in Australia in 2018 is a technology that implants luminescent dyes into fibres right at the spinning mill. This way, the textile that comes out of the mill after manufacturing is fully traceable at every stage of its lifecycle. FibreTrace started with a motive to track the cotton the owners of the company farmed. This was their initiative to ensure and know that their fibres weren’t being mixed with lower quality fibres when they sent it to the spinning mills. The company then partnered with anti-counterfeiting expert Paul Stenning, who is now FibreTrace’s head of Research and Development, to apply his technology to their cotton. The pigments the company uses are durable and built into fibre so that even if the fabric is recycled, its origins can still be traced using a simple handheld scanner that is able to scan and read the pigment. Information about the fibre is thereby stored on a secure blockchain database in real-time at every stage of the production line. It’s not just cotton but the FibreTrace technology can be applied to responsible viscose and recycled polyester too. The company is currently doing trials on other materials like wool, leather and bast fibres like hemp and flax.
Making it possible to scan and trace with Lyfcycle
The idea of QR code scanning to place orders or pay bills has become a very relevant concept with the pandemic. With touch taking a backseat, QR codes have now become an integral part in our daily lives. Using this concept to work, Lyfcycle applies QR codes to clothing labels so that customers can learn about the origin of their garments. Founded in 2019 Lyfcycle takes an effort to encourage customers to make more informed decisions on the shop floor before they buy a garment. The information is available on the Lyfcycle app, so when customers scan a garment’s QR code it reveals to them an interactive map and they can immediately read what the garment is made of, where it came from and who made it.
Connecting the dots for circular economy with EON
One of the leading traceability tech platforms –EON looks towards strengthening the circular economy. They do this by connecting brands, customers and the industry using technology that integrates with NFC (near-field communication) tags or QR codes. Finally, when the entire tracing is complete they assign the garment with a CircularID. This ID holds all the information about the garment’s original price, material composition, dye processes and other key features.
The CircularID protocol is something EON hopes will be adopted industry-wid. The company is already working with leading names like H&M, YOOX NET-A-PORTER Group, Gabriela Hearst, Nanushka and Target to create connected products.
Using science to create a traceable backbone with CertainT
CertainT is another leading platform set up by Applied DNA Sciences. The company assigns tags fibres using a molecular identifier called SigNature tags on garments. These can be applied and detected at any point in a garment’s lyfecycle through forensic testing, done in an Applied DNA laboratory, or on-site at any stage in the supply chain. These tags cannot be copied, can be customized as per the needs, and are extremely resistant to extreme environmental conditions and can be applied to both natural and synthetic fibres, including cotton, leather, down and feathers, wool and recycled polyester. Once tagged, data on the fibre is tracked, recorded and uploaded to a cloud database that a brand or supplier can access online and share with their customers.
TextileGenesis to give more base to transparent manufacturing
A Hong Kong-based tech company, they are best known for creating their innovative Fibercoins, which are essentially digital tokens that work as fingerprints. When assigned to any textile asset, like fibre, yarn, fabric, or finished garment, then it automatically creates a digital identity for the textile and as it moves through the production cycle the fibre can be traced all across the supply chain. Fibercoins stay intact no matter how many times the material is reused or recycled, and the information is stored using blockchain, which can’t be altered or tampered with.
A universe where you can connect back each piece of production to the next or the previous is the one where sustainable environment-friendly practices will rule. So, it is upon us to say yes to sustainability through traceability.