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Supply Chain Transparency in a Technological Age for the Textile Industry


Now, in the midst of 2021 and the well-established “age of information” (the insta-age), we can find out what we want at the touch of a button and that includes all we need to know about a brands’ business credentials. As a result, the term “transparency” has become of increasing importance and supply chain transparency has come under a major spotlight within the fashion and textile industry.

Fashion Revolution [1] , the world’s largest fashion activism movement, has published its fifth annual edition of the Transparency Index. The Index reviews 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers, ranking them according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. The aim is to push major brands to be more transparent and encourage disclosure of information about their suppliers to provide all stakeholders an honest and open account of their business operations.

According to global business consultant firm McKinsey [2], millennials lead the way with 52 percent agreeing that they always research for background information before buying, as compared with 45 percent of Gen Z consumers and 41 percent of baby boomers.

This concept of supply chain transparency has evolved over the last decade, and with it comes technological advancements to ensure fluid and lean production that can be accounted for at every stage. According to the research and advisory company Gartner [3] , “50% of large global companies will be using artificial intelligence, advance analytics and the internet of things in supply chain operations by 2023.”

A prime example of this can be found with the UK-based fashion manufacturer Fashion-Enter Ltd [4]. The social enterprise has partnered with Kornit Digital and Zund UK to provide on-site digital printing and cutting that is sustainable, efficient and in line with lean, on-demand production. This combined with the use of Galaxius, a system that logs every stage of production, has elevated Fashion-Enter Ltd’s transparency and the company is now advising and supporting other UK factories on how they can do the same.

Image courtesy of Lenzing

Counterfeiting is rife in the fashion and textiles industry. To combat this, forward-thinking companies are incorporating cutting-edge technology to increase visibility for brands and consumers. Leading the way is the Lenzing Group. They have recently extended their revolutionary fiber identification technology already in use for LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded fibers to TENCEL™ branded lyocell and modal fibers, solidifying its commitment to provide complete transparency throughout the entire textile production process. The successful launch and feedback from the industry on the existing system along with the growing number of wood-based cellulosic manufacturers encouraged Lenzing to diversify its technology for the TENCEL™ brand to ensure traceability of its products.

Florian Heubrandner, Vice President Global Textiles Business at Lenzing commented: “Over the next few years, branded fiber products will employ fiber identification technology on a broader level, and, in time, it will be possible to real time track and trace materials through the supply chains. We hope that our success can provide the industry with an example of how innovation empowers sustainability and help to shift perception towards proven sustainable solutions.”

Image courtesy of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Industry change requires growing support and Lenzing Group recently joined forces with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). In May 2021, SAC, a global multi-stakeholder non-profit alliance for the consumer goods industry, along with its technology partner Higg, launched the first phase of a transparency program for publicly sharing data on a product’s environmental impact, starting with its materials content. [5] 

The program provides a consistent way for brands, retailers, and manufacturers to share sustainability information on apparel and footwear products, across impact categories such as water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and use of fossil fuels. Built on a decade’s worth of tool development, consumer testing, and contributed environmental impact data, this first phase of the Higg Index transparency program is an important step toward a unified approach for industry-wide transparency – in order to provide consumers with unprecedented visibility into a product’s real impact. 

Supply chain transparency in fashion and textiles is a complex issue, but not an impossible one. Thanks to the growing number of technological advancements, suppliers and brands are beginning to invest and utilise in a range of possibilities that will rejuvenate the sector.

[1]Source: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/about/transparency/

[2]Source: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/what-radical-transparency-could-mean-for-the-fashion-industry#

[3] Source: https://www.gartner.com/en

[4] Source: https://www.fashioncapital.co.uk/ethical/zund-uk-partners-with-fashion-enter-to-implement-a-sustainable-micro-factory-concept/

[5] Source: https://apparelcoalition.org/press-releases/transparency-program-launch/

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