According to BoF and McKinsey & Company’s State of Fashion: Technology report, more than 50% of fashion decision-makers say traceability will be a top-five enabler for reducing emissions in their supply chains. It is an important tool in meeting consumer and shareholder expectations for improved sustainability.
The technology platform FibreTrace provides real-time verification of products as they move through the global supply chain.
FibreTrace works with brands, manufacturers, farmers and raw fiber producers to connect the supply chain. The company launched its first core product, FibreTrace Verified, in March 2021 in partnership with fashion brand Reformation. Today, the technology is used by 10 brands, including Reformation and 7 For All Mankind, and more than 60 suppliers of cotton, recycled polyester, viscose and, soon, wool and leather.
FibreTrace Verified links digital traceability with physical technology, applying non-toxic luminescent pigments at the source of the fibrils. Pigments are indestructible throughout the processing cycle and can be read and tracked by hardware devices at every stage of the supply chain. Every audit is recorded on the blockchain and provides businesses with AI-driven insights. US customs and import regulations permit the use of cotton marked with FibreTrace.
While fashion companies are expected to increase investment in technology solutions, the State of Fashion: Technology report shows that supply chain transparency and traceability solutions lag behind virtual sampling, capacity planning and virtual fabric libraries as investment priorities.
As a solution, FibreTrace developed its second product this year, FibreTrace Mapped, a purely digital solution to map the global textile supply chain from fiber to retail, and has decided to offer the tool free of charge to brands and manufacturers to enable Democratize the ability to increase supply chain transparency.
After one year, free access is capped at 500 digital audits per year. Any company operating on that unit amount will continue to receive free access, while larger companies will be charged the annual rate of $2,640.
Now, BoF sat down with FibreTrace CEO Shannon Mercer to get a better understanding of how the technology works, the data and analytics available to the company, and what’s next for FibreTrace technology.
Why traceability and transparency are important in the textile industry?
Short message: Changes in consumer behavior and legislation over the past 5 to 10 years have been an important driver of the increasing prevalence of traceability and transparency. Europe and the US now have a regulatory framework that turns traceability and transparency from a non-existent to an essential.
What technical solutions does FibreTrace offer?
Short message: We have two solutions – FibreTrace Verified and FibreTrace Mapped.
FibreTrace Mapped is our new digital chain of custody that can track and map product certificates, purchase orders, shipping documents and more, then use blockchain to record these processes to provide an irrefutable ledger of what happened in the supply chain. FibreTrace Mapped also offers brands the opportunity to share their supply chain details with end consumers.
We are releasing the first version of Mapped to the global industry for free. Over the next 12 to 24 months, we will continue to enhance the platform with product templates, reporting tools, and enhanced functionality.
FibreTrace Verified uses a patented physical tracking system to audit and verify the movement of fibers through the supply chain. Each fiber has different applications, and each fiber type has unique characteristics. For example, American cotton has different characteristics than Australian cotton, and recycled polyester has different characteristics than virgin polyester. We then use our proprietary handheld scanners to act as digital auditors, physically verifying and confirming the origin of the fiber in real time and ensuring there is no unauthorized mixing.
How can technology be shared across the supply chain?
Short message: Using FibreTrace Mapped is as easy as registering on the platform and uploading your company details and products. Once you create your product, you can invite the next person in the supply chain on the platform who will then be notified to privately track the order and then accept it. I think of it as a relay race, passing the baton to the next person until the product is fully planned.
How can brand partners effectively use your products and services?
Short message: When we think about adoption, it’s difficult because there are many factors that cover customer onboarding — there’s perceived cost, implementation, onboarding, data security, all of that.
When we split it into FibreTrace Verified and FibreTrace Mapped, we put the onus on brands to decide where they need digital chain of custody and where they need physical traceability. This allows traceability to be adopted in the sector and then gives them the opportunity to choose the suppliers they work with, thus enabling them to scale from the platform.
The more brands, manufacturers and suppliers embrace traceability, the greater the pressure on all players to develop an industry-wide standard for transparency.
We are allowing users to first adopt the platform digitally through FibreTrace Mapped, where they can increase transparency across the supply chain. They then have the opportunity to add physical fiber verification using FibreTrace Verified.
Why do you offer FibreTrace Mapped service for free?
Short message: The industry talks about traceability, but when we look at the mass adoption of any brand or fiber, it’s not happening fast enough. The more brands, manufacturers and suppliers embrace traceability, the greater the pressure on all players to develop an industry-wide standard for transparency.
Providing our services for free removes barriers to entry. Once we can get people to use the platform and show them the benefits of using it, it makes adoption a lot easier across industries. Obviously, that’s a huge cost, but it’s not just a marketing gimmick – we’re trying to make a difference. That’s why we also have an ongoing free option after the first year of introduction, giving SMEs a reason to take their first steps towards transparency.
From a manufacturing standpoint, we are starting to see preferential treatment for brands adopting traceability technology because it makes it easier to build supply chains.So there is definitely an opportunity for farms and manufacturers to engage with brands more deeply, be able to differentiate themselves from other brands and drive a premium
What are AI-driven insights and how can they benefit businesses?
Short message: As data comes in, you can start comparing information and extracting insights that can better inform your business.
The first version of FibreTrace Mapped comes with a simple reporting mechanism where you can view a global map of supply chain partner locations, a digital audit timeline matching data additions or certificate uploads, and a list view of products in the supply chain .
For the second version, which will be released within the next 12 months, we will add product templates and advanced reporting capabilities. These will be built with input from our participating brands and manufacturing partners.
One of the misconceptions is that traceability is a cost to businesses. I totally disagree with this. From a compliance standpoint, as these systems are adopted, they remove the need for certain types of certification as technology takes over.
What’s next for FibreTrace?
Short message: This year, we are working to bring leather, wool, linen, hemp and responsible products to market with FibreTrace Verified, looking to provide physical traceability for all man-made and natural fibres.
From a technology standpoint, we continue to support the B2B part, but also build out the consumer part, so brands can educate consumers and show them what they’re doing with traceability and transparency. This is a key component for us.
With greenwashing, there is now a lack of consumer trust in what is actually printed on the label – is it real or fake? Hence, the drive and traceability of these transparency solutions, especially bridging the physical and digital, enables brands to increase consumer trust. So, I don’t think traceability is a cost to the industry at all. This is actually an opportunity.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by FibreTrace as part of a BoF partnership.