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Fashion Forward: The Urgent Need for Traceability in the Fashion Industry

Over the past 15-20 years, fashion items have become more affordable and disposable, leading to shorter lifespans for these products and negatively impacting the environment. The garment industry is responsible for up to 20% of industrial water pollution, producing a single pair of jeans requiring up to 1,800 gallons (6,800 liters) of water due to the cotton content.

Additionally, apparel and footwear production contributes 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. These factors have driven fashion brands to adopt responsible sourcing practices.

Supply chain traceability in the fashion industry is receiving increased attention, but the process of implementing it is complex and unclear. To address this, an open-source Traceability Playbook aims to provide guidance and close the gap.

The playbook, created by traceability platform TrusTrace in collaboration with Fashion for Good, emphasizes the urgency of traceability for the fashion industry. It outlines the business case for traceability and explains the three levels of traceability: supplier mapping, product traceability, and material traceability. It explores wider considerations such as regulations, material innovation, and the circular economy. Lastly, it offers methodologies, templates, and guidance to help companies implement traceability, navigate new legislation, and standardize traceability on an industry-wide scale.

TrusTrace also offers software designed to help fashion brands with this problem. Its software leverages a combination of AI, blockchain, IoT, and software automation to create its technology. As a result, garment information can be updated rapidly while also ensuring that the information remains unchangeable, trackable, and easily accessible.

The stakes are high for brands that don't invest in traceability, as new legislation is on the horizon. For example, the US Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and proposed legislation in New York and the EU can hold brands accountable for poorly managed labor and supply chain practices.

Adidas, Asics, and several other brands have been piloting TrusTrace's traceability programs and using their knowledge hub to stay informed about new legislation. The standardization of traceability is also a key goal, as it would streamline requests to suppliers and improve efficiency and innovation.

Another challenge is navigating regional differences in legislation and compliance, particularly between the US and the EU. The industry needs a set standard and methodology for data collection and sharing that is easy for suppliers and stakeholders to follow and for consumers to access and compare information.

The Traceability Playbook highlights traceability’s growing importance and complexity in the fashion industry. With the release of new legislation and the need for industry alignment, brands recognize the urgency and invest in traceability. By standardizing traceability practices, brands can improve efficiency, innovation, and transparency in their supply chains. Despite challenges such as underfunding and regional differences, brands are taking steps to prioritize traceability and ensure that their practices align with sustainable and ethical standards.




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