What is Traceability?
In the labyrinth of sustainable fashion discussions, the term “traceability” has emerged as a key player, weaving its way through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) statements and sustainability dialogues. But what is traceability, particularly in the context of the fashion industry? In this comprehensive guide, we will untangle the intricacies of traceability, why it matters, and how fashion brands can leverage it to navigate the often complex terrain of supply chains.
Defining Traceability: More Than a Buzzword
At its core, traceability in fashion implies a profound understanding of where and how every component of a garment is made. It serves as a powerful tool to untangle the threads of intricate supply chains, shedding light on their complexities and potential challenges. However, in an industry where jargon can be easily co-opted by brands with less-than-noble intentions, precision in defining traceability becomes paramount. It’s a safeguard against the risk of brands claiming sustainability without truly addressing their impacts—beyond the latest trends in corporate greenwashing.
Traceability vs Transparency: What Sets Them Apart?
While often used interchangeably, traceability and transparency are distinct concepts. A brand might boast full supply chain traceability—having visibility into every stage of their product’s creation—yet lack transparency if they withhold this information from the public. Transparency, in essence, involves telling us where clothes are made, while traceability goes a step further, showing the receipts and providing a detailed map of every journey, from raw materials to finished product.
The Challenge of Incomplete Information
In the pursuit of sustainability, many fashion companies claim to be transparent, publishing lengthy reports. However, the recent Fashion Transparency Index 2023 revealed a stark truth—52% of brands shared information about their first-tier manufacturers, but only 36% extended this transparency to factories beyond the first tier. A mere 12% disclosed anything about the sources of their raw materials. Incomplete traceability is a form of greenwashing, where brands provide inadequate information, hindering meaningful progress in sustainable practices.
The Limitations of Traceability: A Reality Check
While traceability is essential, it’s crucial to understand that it alone doesn’t guarantee sustainability. It is a tool, a means to an end, illuminating the manufacturing world to identify and address issues. Brands must not only disclose supplier information but also provide evidence of good environmental and social practices throughout the supply chain. Without complete and consistent traceability, brands risk confusing consumers and impeding real progress toward sustainability.
Fast Fashion Challenges and the Need for Constant Traceability
The challenges intensify in the realm of fast fashion. Brands producing at breakneck speed and high turnover rates face obstacles in maintaining a sustainable supply chain. The constant flux in a brand’s supply chain due to microtrends and high turnover means mapping the supply chain afresh every season. The pressure to deliver swiftly has led to outsourcing by garment factories, sometimes to less ethical entities. The Rana Plaza disaster exposed the dangers of this practice, emphasising the critical need for brands to trace their supply chains thoroughly.
The Tech Promise: Digital Product Passports and Beyond
In the quest for traceability, technology emerges as a potential game-changer. Digital Product Passports have been hailed as the future of traceability, promising to make it easier for both brands and consumers to access and understand the truth about a garment’s journey. With QR-coded digital product passports, the B2B SaaS platform ettos offers to simplify the journey toward traceability by allowing customers to trace the entire lifecycle of their clothing by using just their mobile phone.
How ettos can help you to achieve traceability for your brand:
- Digital Product Passports: ettos utilises QR codes to create digital passports, linking product supply chains to consumer-friendly overviews.
- External Data Apps: ettos facilitates easy connection of external data apps for streamlined processing of product information.
- Traceability Insights: ettos generates traceability insights, enabling brands to visualise their journey to full supply chain traceability.
- Dynamic Evidence Chain: ettos tracks and monitors green claims through industry standards and certifications, providing access to real-time evidence and status updates.
ettos, stands as a beacon for brands looking to stay ahead of the curve in supply chain traceability. While traceability might seem like a complex puzzle, ettos provides a roadmap for brands, helping them achieve a level of traceability that goes beyond the cutting, sewing, and trimming stages.
In conclusion, traceability is the compass guiding fashion brands through the intricate web of supply chains. It demands a comprehensive understanding of every element that goes into a garment, transcending the visible stages of production. While the fashion industry faces challenges, both internal and external, ettos provides a technological ally for brands committed to the journey of traceability. As we move towards a future where traceability becomes a norm rather than an exception, brands equipped with ettos can lead the way in fostering a transparent and sustainable fashion landscape.