Traceability and sustainable fashion

Consumer interest in the traceability of garments has everything to do with the growing concern for sustainable fashion. Most garments are produced in decentralised factories in developing countries. Therefore, the aim of traceability is to make known, and also to recognize, the ethical origin of garments and their production process. This applies to any type of product, textile or otherwise, and offers the consumer a guarantee of responsibility on the part of the producing company.

What is textile traceability?

“A product is traceable if it is possible to reconstruct its production cycle: from the origin of the individual elements that compose it, to each of its production phases, ending with delivery to the consumer” (source: Fabbrica Futuro).

One of the pillars of sustainable fashion is to be able to know the path that a garment has followed until it reaches the store. To this end, the responsibility of the producer is essential, as they must provide clear and transparent information on the entire supply chain. Hence the importance of sustainable traceability for ethical fashion.

In fact, traceability in supply chain is the ability to identify, track and trace elements of a product as it moves along the supply chain from raw goods to finished products, their use or consumption and, finally, their discarding. In other words, the entire product life cycle.

In any sector, this information provides evidence of best practices that consumers will take into account in their purchasing decisions, which they can make based on brand values and the impact of their production, among other criteria.

As fashion is responsible for 10% of the global carbon footprint, sustainable traceability is key to the future of a sustainable textile industry.

What’s more, it is not only fundamental as proof of responsible fashion, but in the long term, textile traceability is also a guide when sorting garments for recycling or disposal, thus covering the entire product life cycle, right up to its ’death’.

Photo Janko Ferlič for traceability (spools of thread)

Traceability photo: Janko Ferlič

Technological solutions for traceability

Currently, some of the most widely used methods for tracking materials through the logistics chain (traceability) are: RFID (radio frequency identification) and blockchain technology.

Consumers can obtain contrasted and secure information about the production of the products they consume, whether they are textile or not, through certifications (global standards that establish requirements for the validation of information about the goods we purchase). For example, in terms of recycling: The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international standard that certifies the content of recycled materials in products. A GRS certified product is composed of at least 20% recycled material.

All this information can be found in QR codes or RFID chips, which work by Blockchain technology: something similar to a database that is shared from a public or private internet network. This demonstrates to the end consumer that the production process has followed social and environmental standards that qualify the product as sustainable and responsible.

Responsibility or greenwashing

Consumers have become generally concerned with sustainability and want to be aware of the manufacturing process of the garments, but also of the commitment of brands regarding a second life for garments, and the handling of surplus and waste… In the latter, the New Law on Waste has been a major breakthrough. 

In general, the rise of responsible consumption is forcing companies to position themselves in terms of sustainability.

Many brands have been making efforts for years to offer a guarantee of responsibility… The problem is that there are also many that show a lack of real commitment to sustainability, and still opt for a strategy of greenwashing rather than real responsibility. This involves transmitting a false impression (or even misleading information) that the company´s products are environmentally friendly.

Legal framework for a sustainable industry

Globally, legal initiatives aimed at improving visibility and compliance throughout the supply chain are proliferating. These initiatives are often referred to by the term “ESG” (environmental, social and corporate governance). This is the case of the “Sustainable Business Initiative” published by the European Union.

It is no longer enough to detail the production chain; each link in the chain must behave responsibly towards the environment, workers, communities and society in general.

Traceability in fashion brands and companies

The fashion industry cannot escape commitment to traceability. Both luxury and fast fashion brands are already tackling this challenge in the sector.

Kering, H&M Group or LVMH Group have already started to use technological solutions to be more responsible with their production and the environmental footprint it generates, investing in specialised technology.

In Spain, Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti, among others, are also investing in technology to improve the traceability of their garments. 

At Evlox, we are looking into the possibilities of adding a traceability system to our supply chain, as part of our real commitment to sustainability. We hope to be able to tell you more about our initiatives in this regard soon, so stay tuned!