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Why Adidas Teamed Up With This Traceability Tech

As consumers and regulators increasingly take brands and retailers to task for greenwashing—or, in some cases, outright fraudAdidas is working to eliminate any surprises as it ramps up its use of better-for-the-planet materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester.

The sportswear Goliath revealed Monday that it has tapped traceability platform TrusTrace’s Certified Material Compliance solution to enable real-time traceability of its supply chain at the product level, creating a “single source of truth” from different chain-of-custody models that bolster confidence in the provenance of one or multiple components. It also integrates with existing enterprise, purchase order and supplier management systems to reduce the need for manual intervention.

While TrusTrace is by no means “100 percent foolproof,” co-founder and CEO Shameek Ghosh told Sourcing Journal, it’s able to track a material down to the third tier in some cases, and the seventh in others, offering a level of visibility that companies have struggled to achieve on their own. “When the visibility of a supply chain is less than 10 percent, the probability for people to cheat you is much higher,” he said. “Now when you have 80 percent to 90 percent visibility, the probability goes down significantly.”

The New York Times threw the issue of supply-chain duplicity into relief last month after it reported widespread misrepresentation in India’s organic cotton supply chain. One sticking point was the use of paper transaction certifications that can easily be altered or reused. “There is systemic change that needs to be brought about and it cannot be reached by traditional paper methods,” Ghosh said. “It has to come in through a digital process.”

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The company, which raised $6 million in October, rates material claims based on associated evidence. If a product’s overall “confidence score” is low, then it should not be marketed as sustainable, he added. But capturing supply-chain transactions as materials and products pass from node to node has other advantages as well, Ghosh said. Identifying discrepancies between inputs and outputs, for instance, can help flag material wastage leaks and support measures that promote greater efficiency. Knowing the origin of a material can also weed out issues such as forced labor in human-rights hotspots such as China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

For Adidas, TrusTrace is covering roughly 8,000 products across 10,000 material suppliers and 500 factories. In two years, the platform will track and ensure the integrity of all certified materials across the German brand’s entire portfolio. Still, Ghosh takes a pragmatic view of TrusTrace’s role, which he sees as part of an “ecosystem” that includes standards bodies such as Textile Exchange and Higg Co. Fashion production is by nature complex, but he hopes, in time, to be able to delve deeper into the supply chain than others have before him.

“As part of its commitment to sustainability, Adidas has worked with TrusTrace to gain visibility into complete supply chain down to the materials level,” Katja Schreiber, senior vice president of sustainability at Adidas, said in a statement. “The information gleaned from the TrusTrace Certified Material Compliance will help us to create even more transparency of our sustainability efforts.”

Adidas x Marimekko
The “playful” and “expressive” spring/summer 2022 drop features Marimekko’s signature Unikko flower print. Courtesy

One of those efforts is Adidas’s latest partnership with Finnish design house Marimekko—their third so far. Announced Tuesday, the lineup of apparel, footwear and accessories encapsulates the companies’ “shared commitment to sustainability,” with key pieces made with recycled materials and Parley Ocean Plastic.

“This collab is all about fun, functional and beautiful sportswear that embodies the shared design values between Adidas and Marimekko,” Aimee Arana, senior vice president, sportswear and training, at Adidas, said in a statement. “On our continued journey to make sport a space for all, we hope this latest drop encourages the community to embrace the wellbeing of movement, from the studio to the street.”

The “playful” and “expressive” spring/summer 2022 drop features Marimekko’s signature Unikko flower design, which the printmaking impresario made available in a collaborative collection for the first time.

“We are honored to reunite with Adidas for this third limited-edition collaboration. Our iconic floral print Unikko and our Marimekko logo are given a whole new dimension with vivid primary colors on Adidas’ innovative sportswear,” Rebekka Bay, creative director at Marimekko, said in a statement. “Our lifelong mission at Marimekko is to bring joy to people’s everyday lives, and we hope that these bold, playful yet functional products will inspire and energize many.”