Traceability rhymes with sustainability

New opportunities from digital technology

Launching a capsule with organic cotton and recycled polyester from time to time is just a smell of a commitment to sustainability. The real cut in the environmental impact of fashion requires transparent monitoring and management of the production chain, from raw material to store. And beyond, if we consider the fundamental component of end-of-life management and the post-consumer destination of clothing.

All stakeholders want guarantees about products and suppliers compliance with environmental and labour laws and the authenticity and credibility of statements about product and process sustainability performances, a quantum leap for fashion brands and textile companies, those same companies that learned how to comply with chemical safety protocols and proven resilient in the harsh months of the pandemic.

It is not surprising that important initiatives are taking place to experiment with connecting, verifying, transferring data and documents between the fashion supply chain subjects. 

A leading programme was launched in 2019 by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in collaboration with the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and e-Business (UN/CEFACT) and the support of the European Commission. The programme Enhancing Transparency and Traceability for Sustainable in the Garment and Footwear involves more than 200 experts and is due to completion in 2022. The initiative aims to harmonize languages and ways of connecting the global fashion supply chain and suggest to international institution how to support the transition to a more sustainable and digital fashion. Pilots Implementations are also part of the project, the first of which already started, concerns the cotton supply chain, including Italian companies.

We must also not forget the TRICK project, an initiative coordinated by Piacenza spa and participated by Enea and the Customs Agency, representing a continuation of the eBIZ programme. Here, too, there are many objectives. Tracking materials, activities, logistics means being faster and more efficient in responding to market demands avoiding waste and delays and ensuring the quality and safety of products from upstream processing to the consumer.

Will blockchain be the buzz-word in future conferences and articles about fashion?

It is possible. We are talking about a technology that promises to improve the traceability systems of different and global realities, connect devices and transmit, receive, monitor, track and store data. All entrusted to an independent and reliable system because the data in a blockchain does not reside in a central database, they are shared among all members of the supply chain but cannot be modified without authorization by the majority of blockchain members.


In short, a shield against greenwashing can make production processes more efficient and transparent and highlight ethical and sustainable practices.