When it comes to one of the world’s most polluting and exploitative industries, more and more consumers are demanding transparency. We have the technology to deliver end-to-end transparency and to support the reinvention of the fashion industry.
Revelations regarding the scale of forced labour continue to dominate mainstream news, bringing the issue of materials sourcing and manufacturing across industries as varied as fashion to automotive to electrical engineering into sharp focus.
It has become apparent that there are many brands that cannot guarantee their products aren’t implicated in accusations of forced labour; and this presents a huge challenge on many levels — compelling companies to reorganize their supply chains, and countries such as the US banning imports from certain regions.
With the introduction of digital ID technologies, it becomes possible to provide traceable identities for every product — enabling transparency from raw materials to end products and beyond. In doing so, this offers consumers the highest standards of visibility, safety, education and authenticity possible; while giving businesses complete control over their supply chains.
However, the level of transparency in supply chains has not kept up with technological innovations; and the disconnect between raw materials, manufacturers and retailers has generated serious concerns about wastage, climate change, poor pay and forced labour.
Digital ID technologies have the capacity to boost efficiency and bridge the gap between suppliers and brands, but a culture of resistance is restricting many industries. A 2018 report by EcoVadis found that transparency could be helped along by government regulations. However, even without regulations, brands have tended to do what they think is best for their brand and what their consumers want. There are certain cultural barriers that remain and some of that comes down to a lack of wanting to give any competitive advantages away in hyper-competitive industries such as fashion. Another barrier has been an inability to capture data, synthesize and communicate it at scale. With Industry 4.0 and technologies such as RFID and other IoT applications, that is now changing — and industry must catch up.
Digital ID technologies designed to track and trace products from the raw-material source to the customer can deliver enhanced visibility of the supply chain. The key is to maintain a consistent format of data for all suppliers and elements of the chain. The data can then be interfaced with digital technologies such as blockchain — a shared database where various parties in the supply chain input and verify information.
The fashion industry is one that has come under increasing scrutiny from business and customers alike. We have the technology to deliver end-to-end transparency and to support the reinvention of the fashion industry. In an industry that accounts for 10 percent of global GHG emissions; and following a year where we have seen movements such as #PayUp enter mainstream consciousness, consumers expect and demand transparency. Now more than ever they want to know the impact that their garments have. They want to know how they're made, who made them, where they've come from, what is in them; and ultimately, what they should do with them once they've reached the end of their useful life.
The time is now for the fashion industry to embrace innovation and digital technologies with open arms. The consequences of not transforming our supply chains could be devastating. We must provide greater transparency to future-proof our businesses, to protect our brands and to provide answers with confidence to consumers asking "who made my clothes?" Most importantly, we need to prioritize transparency for the hundreds of thousands of workers that are victims of forced labour.
For more information, please read the reports, IoT and the Imminent Supply Chain Digital Transformation and The New Transparency.