Technology
Traceability

Security Meets Sustainability

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While some pinpoint the Rana Plaza factory collapse tragedy as the tipping point, and others cite the impact of the pandemic as the real change-maker, all agree that the era of textile traceability has arrived. And, importantly, we’re not only talking about a leveling up of supply chain transparency; today’s movement to know the truth about textiles is also consumer driven.

Sustainability goes hand in hand with this trend. As suppliers and brands go deeper into the supply chain to authenticate the social and environmental responsibility of the who, what, where of production, consumers are increasingly along for the ride, educating themselves about everything from origin of raw materials to greenwashing claims.

As a result, suppliers are becoming more receptive to innovative, high-tech traceability platforms, both physical and digital, giving shape to a modern mindset prioritizing supply chain authenticity.

“Five years ago, just a few companies understood that traceability ‘was the right thing to do.’ Today more people are paying attention,” explains MeiLin Wan, vice president, Applied DNA Sciences. “The message has gone from falling on deaf ears to being loud and clear, especially in the last 12 to 15 months. Traceability is the number one issue for the supply chain.”

“Integrity thread protects the brand, as well as supply chains, at a time when security and sustainability are extremely important.” – Wayne Buchen, VP, strategic sales, Applied DNA Sciences

Consumers are on message. “The new consumer generation expects fashion brands to deliver a contribution to a sustainable society. They demand reliable products that they can trust, offered with as much transparency as possible. Therefore traceability is a necessity,” says Koen Warmerdam, brand director of Aware, a new traceability technology by The Movement, a cleantech start-up from the Netherlands.

Even those already supporting identification technology are doing more. “We see the need to continuously improve transparency and traceability of our products, so as to make sure our brand credentials are well protected and trusted by industry stakeholders and consumers,” says Florian Heubrandner, VP Global Textiles Business at Lenzing AG.

Partners in Integrity

Stony Brook, NY-based Applied DNA Sciences recently partnered with thread manufacturers American & Efird (A&E) to lend its trademarked CertainT technology Powered by BEACON to the expansion of A&E’s Integrity ECO100 sewing thread line, a sustainable 100 percent recycled fiber thread that provides an innovative and economical solution for brands to authenticate and validate their products anywhere within the supply chain. The thread can be used in an array of non-apparel such as footwear, home furnishings, automotive, and luggage as well as embroidery. Beyond ensuring claims of product sustainability and social responsibility, the heightened level of traceability achieved via this partnership will help fight the $4.5 trillion estimate in total global trade of fakes, according to the companies.

The innovation authenticates a brand’s products and components by using the Beacon technology for a quick, in-the-field optical verification and, when needed, by using a portable qPCR test for a forensic analysis of the molecular tag.

“Integrity thread protects the brand, as well as supply chains, at a time when security and sustainability are extremely important. We are helping to ensure that customers can meet their supply chain traceability and sustainability goals,” says Wayne Buchen, VP, strategic sales, Applied DNA Sciences.

“There is a totally different mindset about traceability compared to years ago,” states Buchen, a textile industry veteran having held a variety of posts including LaCoste and Under Armour most recently, before joining ADNAS two years ago. For example, the days of reliance on paper for authentication are giving way to more high-tech measures that are more secure, more sustainable and do a better job of “keeping everyone honest,” says Buchen.

For example, this is the first time BEACON technology is used with thread. This allows the product to be tested in real-time with a swipe of a reactive swab, whether that is in the field, or in the warehouse or on returns. Once swabbed, a UV light will shine red when a product is genuine, providing tangible validation of authenticity.

ADNAS’ CertainT platform has three technology pillars (Tag, Test, Track) which allows raw materials and products to be tagged with a unique molecular identifier. All the data points associated with tagging and testing are tracked by uploading to a secure cloud database.

Becoming AWARE

Launched in 2020, AWARE technology is finding traction by offering a clear connection between the original sustainable material and the final product, with access to traceability data easily available.

“Traceability is a hot topic, within the industry but also outside the industry, as consumers increasingly want proof that claims are valid, and authenticity from brands making their clothing, be aware of what you wear,” says Warmerdam.

The brand has signed a roster of spinners, including Valerius Group and Belda Llorens, to make traceable yarns available in Europe, Simco and Tiancheng in Asia and Calik Denim and Artistic Fabric Mills to make yarns for the denim industry. The company is currently collaborating with Bestseller Group and is in a development stage of a collaboration with Jack Wolfskin.

“These companies understand that traceability is key going forward.” Warmerdam emphasizes.

Partner spinners add the Aware tracer particles to their original certified recycled feedstock. This tracer, a kind of fingerprint, is readable during each step of the supply chain by an Aware handheld scanner that gives an instant result.

This confirmation is then linked to the related digital token stored on blockchain, the original purchase order and the AWARE Certificate of Authenticity. All this information is then transferred to the digital wallet of the retailer or brand, complete with an easy-to-understand blockchain interface documenting all environmental impact savings, according to the company.

According to Warmerdam, Aware is soon to launch the ability for consumers to be more integrated into the traceability process via a QR code that links to a digital passport of the product, providing individuals complete transparency and insight in the materials used, supply chain mapping and impact savings.

Expansion Plans

Less than a year after introducing a new fiber identification technology to its EcoVero fibers, Lenzing announced that it will now include all fiber types under the Tencel brand in an effort to offer full traceability of Lenzing products and further elevate supply chain transparency.

“The new consumer generation expects fashion brands to deliver a contribution to a sustainable society.” – Koen Warmerdam, Brand Director Aware

Lenzing’s fiber identification technology provides physical identification of fiber origin at different stages of textile  products such as the fabric and garment level. According to the company, the system also guarantees that the fibers are produced in state-of-the-art production facilities that meet high standards for resource efficiency and environmental and social responsibility.

As of November 2021, all fabrics will be tested for fiber identification, enhancing the security of Lenzing’s online services and testing facilities and increasing transparency and security between value chain partners. By the  first half of 2022, according to the company, additional services for brands and retailers will be integrated onto Lenzing E-branding Service.

“As the awareness of sustainability grows, protecting brand credentials with eco-friendly assurance with our fiber identification technology, we  hope to enable the textile industry to become more sustainable, as well as ensure our brand partners have the  credibility to communicate their sustainability efforts and combat greenwashing,” comments Heubrandner.

In addition to its E-branding Service, Lenzing partnered with TextileGenesis to aunch its  blockchain enabled supply chain traceability platform.

The new initiatives and different emerging technology platforms designed to heighten security, advance sustainability and innovate both physical and digital traceability, bodes well for all parties involved in the supply chain, including consumers.

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