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Transformers Foundation Develops Transparency Tool Specially for the Denim Industry

Transformers Foundation will unveil the Transformers Foundation’s Transparency Tool (TTT) at Kingpins Amsterdam Wednesday, giving mills a comprehensive new way to measure the environmental impact of denim across every stage of production.  

The web-based tool calculates impact based on data inputted by the supply chain. It also provides product mapping as raw materials and products move from one place to the next. A transport module calculates CO2 emissions or CO2-equivalent emissions to reflect transportation’s impact. 

Before becoming a foundation in 2020, Transformers’ events provided a platform for individuals calling for more transparency in the denim supply chain. Those demands have grown louder since the pandemic with more consumers aware of the fashion industry’s environmental and social impacts, and more brands establishing measurable sustainability goals.

However, Miguel Sanchez, Kingpins technological leader, said it became clear no transparency tool was built specifically for denim and its nuanced supply chain. As a foundation, Transformers wanted to create a solution that could measure the impact of producing denim at a granular level. 

Whereas other tools bundle the impact of each step of denim manufacturing under blanket terms like dyeing or energy, TTT splits up each step into sub-steps. Those sub-steps are measured individually, allowing companies to see where exactly the impact and waste stem from. The tool also calculates electric energy and heating energy separately, and it verifies the type of chemicals that are used against the ZDHC MRSL 3.0.

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“There are more than 24 steps to make a pair of jeans, but if you include the sub-steps that number climbs to 50,” Sanchez said.

TTT collects data from information databases and from the insight from Transformers Foundation’s expert members and advisors. The foundation’s representatives from mills, laundries, machinery manufacturers and farms provide information based on practice. 

The main data, however, comes from participating mills’ self-assessments that cover how much water, energy, chemicals and other resources they consume. “Mills know what is required to make jeans because they are paying for the resources,” Sanchez said. “We want to go down to the basic information so we can say that in these conditions or at this particular mill, or for this particular article, this is the amount of [resources] that is required.”

What TTT does not do is compare the data against an industry standard. “We are moving away from averages and numbers that are accepted blindly without any scientific support,” Sanchez said. “We don’t consider any preset figure or ratings because what is required to make a pair of jeans depends on so many different factors.”

Transformers’ intention for TTT is to give mills a way to share information with their clients. Mills own the information and can choose how to give clients access to the secured site. The calculations can also be used in a company’s sustainability report. Sanchez added that TTT should be used as a predictive tool for mills to understand the future impact of a new fabric or garment. 

“TTT allows mills the opportunity to find out how much water and energy will be required to produce the article before it ever goes into production,” he said. “They can change the recipe before doing anything in bulk.”

Transformers has received positive feedback from several mills in different countries that have tested TTT, Sanchez said. The foundation has also tested the tool with garment manufacturers and laundries to provide a complete picture of denim’s impact. 

Sanchez said participating companies will be asked to pay a “small and reasonable fee” which will be applied to maintaining and updating the tool—not to make a profit. “We expect that the tool has to be updated regularly because there are new changes on the energy mixes of the countries, equipment modifications, new fibers and such,” he said. 

TTT will be up and running before the end of the second quarter. PVH Corp. will be the first company to adopt the tool. The Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein owner has been working with Transformers Foundation to facilitate connections with mills.

TTT follows the release of Transformers Foundation’s reports on the complexity of certifications and cotton misinformation, and is an example of the work it plans to focus on in the future.

“The tool is a message to the denim community that we’re trying to improve and make things better from all aspects,” Sanchez said. “The foundation is working hard to make denim a high-value article, and for that, transparency is important.”