Supply chain transparency is one of the hottest sustainability topics and for good reasons. But, it doesn’t necessarily ensure a “sustainable” brand or product. It only tells us what our supply chains consist of. But hey, we are almost reaching a place where it is becoming the norm to map your supply chain in order to make changes for the better. But there are two types of tools for traceability, one which might fare better than the other. We have blockchain traceability or physical tracers embedded into a garment. The question is, which one is better? When we refer to supply chain traceability, we are referring to the ability to capture the nitty gritty information on particular ingredients and components that flow through the value chain like, lot number, harvest date, batch number, etc. It is a zoomed in look at how components travel through the supply chain versus transparency’s zoomed out approach that looks at mapping the entire end-to-end supply chain. Blockchain has become one of the most common methods for supply chain traceability, but with the risk of fake documentation at the raw material stage and along the chain, tracers have been becoming the primary method of choice in combination with blockchain technology. The difference? Blockchain can be thought of like a structural database that holds a chain of records stored in the form of blocks and controlled by no single authority. Retraced is a traceability tool working through blockchain technology to help you map your supply chain and understand where your products are coming from and what impact they have. The database can hold a supplier's certificates, environmental impact data, location and more so an end consumer has access to where and how their product is being made. All of this information is physically input in the database that is then irrefutable. Tracers, on the other hand, are embedded into a fiber or fabric and can be scanned for verification throughout its lifecycle. Fibretrace™ is one who has developed an indestructible tracing technology that can be applied to fibers to give you 20/20 vision into an entire supply chain through real-time data. This technology provides the ability to follow the entire life of a product from fibre, to product, to recycle, to reuse or rebirth.
BUT HOW DOES IT WORK?
FibreTrace™ embeds luminescent pigments into any fabric, right at the farm or spinning mill. The pigments can then be read and tracked at every stage of the supply chain - even by the end consumer. Each audit is recorded on the blockchain platform ensuring immediate, secure, accessible and irrefutable data that builds a unique digital passport for each item telling its story from farm to shelf. Some questions have been raised regarding the longevity of these tracers after being subject to harsh dyeing and finishing processes. As the goal is to keep products and materials cycling through as long as possible, knowing exactly what’s in them to maximise the use is extremely important. Most recycling solutions require the knowledge of the exact composition of the jeans, but we all know that sometimes a label gets a little itchy or gets damaged after many washes and eventually gets cut off. It is certainly not a crime, but this small move means that a potential recycling center has to spend a lot of time and money to find out what the fabric is made of. With physical tracers, recyclers can know in one scan not only what solution is best to recycle the fabric, but also all the content of the trims. The same thought can be applied to brands taking back their pieces. With tracing technology they can know for sure that they are not counterfeits and have the major potential to enable systems of taking back, recommence and rental. Using a system of both physical tracing technology and blockchain is the best practice for ensuring the data you are retrieving is sound. But, understanding the difference between transparency and traceability is very important in creating supply chain management strategies to capture and communicate the right information to the right people. The goal is to be able to communicate clearly to the end consumer and when we know what’s going on in our supply chain, it starts a truly open, honest and straightforward conversation between everyone in the chain. But, don’t forget! Transparency and traceability does not mean environmental sustainability, it only shows you what’s going on :) The first step in creating lasting change.
What data are you looking for with traceable products? Let us know in the comments below or on Instagram to start a conversation.
Until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT! 🧐