Sustainability Conversations

The Importance of Lifecycle Traceability in Fashion Sustainability

Mentor

Tobias Herzog

Managing Director, Tailorlux, Responsible for the integriTEX Solution

1.  The critical need for fashion sustainability is lifecycle traceability and management. Can knowing the source help in sustainability transformation?

Definitely, I believe that knowledge about the source of materials will become the driver of sustainability. Today, consumers are more informed than ever before when making a buying decision.  Movements like “Fridays for Future” may indicate that future consumers will make informed buying decisions by asking specific questions on sourcing and sustainability. Hence the knowledge about sourcing, smart product management beyond the point of sale will be critical for positioning and branding in the future fashion world.

2.  What in your view are the primary reasons for adopting product security in fashion?

I think that the answer will depend on the position you address in the supply chain. As a customer, making a deliberate decision on buying organic cotton textiles, I might expect a multi-dimension product security meaning:

  • Secure, that social standards have been above average
  • Secure, that it is real organic material starting from the seed to finished goods
  • Secure, that environmental issues have been addressed.
  • Secure, that my product is trendy because I bought it from a specific brand

The same question addressing the director of a spinning mill might leave to a one-dimensional aspect of product security, meaning that the delivered fiber is “organic” in terms of standard X or Y.

The ambassador or link between all those aspects of product protection is the brand. The brand is nothing less than a promise to the consumer, and these promises will affect multiple aspects of product security in the future, as depicted in the answer above.

3.   How can sustainability solutions in fashion benefit from product security features in fibres, filaments and textiles?

I think that “sustainability solutions” are not very well specified/benchmarked to compare the efforts that have been made for a sustainable fashion approach. What is the benefit if a GRS certified yard made from R-PET bottles is shipped around the world, manufactured under conditions of modern slavery and dyed and finished far away from any environmental standard? The product might still claim to “save water” but is it justified to book this textile under the label “Sustainable solution”?

The moment fibres and filaments become the carrier of its authentication; they become traceable in volumes. We can see which manufacturers have taken part in the supply chain, giving us a holistic awareness of all aspects of the sustainability in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

4.  What is your advice to sustainability professionals thinking about product and digital transformation?

Talk to each other- re-connect to your supply chain. Especially brands from Europe have alienated themselves from production, losing more and more know-how raining insecurities on sustainable sourcing. All the instruments are on the table to do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are many organizations out there that promise easy ways and shortcuts to sustainability.

5.   What are the key industry standards to plan for?

I think that a common Blockchain-Standard will define the only standard that is needed. I do not think that standards will be key.  The moment that technology makes a move towards transparency, standards will degrade to a source of information that is just a tiny piece of a holistic understanding. Auditing plants and certify single batches with paperwork will be the past when IoT and M2M devices can give us more authentic data than ever.