Transparency in the textile chain

Transparency in the textile supply chain is important for many reasons and is increasingly demanded politically as well as by us consumers. According to a study by Fashion Revolution, 75% of consumers say they want more information when buying clothes (Fashion Revolution Consumer Survey Report 2020). They want to know where the material comes from, under what circumstances was the garment produced, where and by whom?

With the legal requirements of the new Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz – LkSG), among others, larger companies are now being held accountable to fulfil their due diligence obligations in the supply chain and to ensure an improvement in the international human rights basis. We do not want to judge here to what extent the law is sufficient. Many experts have already spoken out on this.
To enable transparent sustainable communication, manufacturers and brand suppliers need to know their entire supply chain. For this they need relevant data. The textile value chain extends over various steps and often over several contingents. This can make data collection difficult. Only those who have the right data at the right time can draw conclusions about the social or ecological impact of their own actions. Only in this way can responsibility be taken, whether by the producer or the consumer.

The Düsseldorf-based start-up retraced has found a technological solution that makes it easier for companies to present their textile value chain on a platform and to bring together the data on sustainability, compliance, transparency in one place. This enables transparency all the way to the source of raw materials. They won the German Sustainability Award for Digitalisation for their platform.

They have now been on the market with their blockchain solution since 2019. They have been able to work with well-known partners since then and show that transparent and sustainable supply chains work. It is easier for users to meet their obligation to contribute but also to communicate with customers. One partner of retraced is for example the brand dedicated. They present information about producers on their website, what certifications they have and when they last visited them. This works because the brand offers a manageable range of sustainable fashion. You can read about the concrete use case on retraced’s site.

Other providers have developed solutions that do not require blockchain. They serve to make the quality of raw materials in the end product transparently traceable. For example, the start-up Tailorlux works with macerating fibres that function like an optical fingerprint and are mixed directly with the fibres. Sensors can be used to make the markings visible and draw conclusions about the proportion of the marked fibre. Proof of the quality of the raw materials can thus be made transparently traceable and secured across global supply routes. This is becoming more and more important with increasing tensions in the raw material markets.

Companies that take the time to audit and certify spend a lot of resources to provide transparency. What do we consumers do with this information? Do we use it? According to a study by Zalando (Attitude-Behaviour-Gap-Report), 60% of respondents say that transparency is important to them, but only 20% actively seek sustainability information when shopping.

So it is up to us to use the information that is already available in parts and to align our actions accordingly and, where information is not yet available, to ask for it.

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