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Fashion’s Track-and-Trace Investments Take 2 Giant Leaps Forward

Claims of sustainability are one thing. Proof of sustainability is another. With greenwashing running rampant, fashion brands are now increasingly looking to show consumers that they are, in fact, ethically sourcing their raw materials.

Topl, the blockchain protocol built to drive sustainable and inclusive growth, is working with Beatrice Bayliss, the female-led, London-based clothing brand that aims to make sustainable and ethical apparel accessible. Topl’s technology has been used by brands to track and verify conflict-free diamonds and fair-wage coffee and chocolates, issue and secure nature-based carbon credits, and provide verifiable reporting for corporate ESG initiatives.

The engagement with Topl will enable Beatrice Bayliss to demonstrate to customers—through a scannable tag on clothing or via an online link—how, where and when the raw materials were sourced and showcase transparency and traceability within the brand’s supply chain.

Combining sourcing data and photographic documentation of each step of the Beatrice Bayliss clothing sourcing, labor practices and manufacturing process, Topl’s Traceable Journey will connect the fashion brand’s sustainability story with consumers seeking responsible practices in the industry. As sustainability is beginning to influence consumer priorities and the fashion agenda, Topl aims to reinforce trust for Beatrice Bayliss’ customers, giving access to provenance data on materials to prove their ethical origin.

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“From the beginning of Beatrice Bayliss, I have been looking for a company that could assist us with supply chain mapping to highlight for our customers just how sustainable and impactful our products really are. Topl is a perfect fit, enabling us to use our verifiable data and imagery to show consumers dynamic visual stories of the products they love,” Emily-Jane Bayliss, founder and CEO of Beatrice Bayliss, said. “Customers shouldn’t have to research whether a brand is truly sustainable; they should be provided with the information in a simple and distinguishable way to make their own informed decision on the brand.”

Since the company first began displaying and selling its merchandise in 2020, Beatrice Bayliss has been receiving customer feedback requesting access to information that proves transparent, sustainable sourcing for its products—where the fabric had come from, where and how it was made. Beatrice Bayliss has begun implementing Topl’s solution across its website and on its product swing tags for popup stores.

“Beatrice Bayliss’s mission to disrupt the fashion industry with products that have a sustainable impact directly aligns with the clients we envisioned working with when Topl launched,” said Erin Murphy, Topl’s chief growth officer. “Our technology equips Beatrice Bayliss’s customers with simple-to-access and highly visual transparency for the company’s supply chain, whether to track where its sustainable cotton comes from or to show customers’ where materials are sourced. Together with Beatrice Bayliss, we can build more consumer trust in brands who espouse reducing their impact on the planet.”

In McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2022 report, two in every five fashion executives interviewed by the global management consulting firm planned to adopt a method of demonstrating sustainable fashion traceability, including product passports. While blockchain is an unknown area for many brands like Beatrice Bayliss, Topl wants to make it easy for companies to provide sustainable impact stories at the point of purchase via a scannable tag, containing verifiable data and visuals, all live on a decentralized ledger.

And consumers are increasingly demanding traceability, too. But in reality, many companies don’t know what’s in their supply chains or don’t have the resources to find out. And if they do know, 50 percent of the world’s largest fashion brands disclose little or no information about their supply chains; only 12 percent publish any insights into their raw material suppliers, according to Fashion Revolution’s 2022 Fashion Transparency Index. That’s why FibreTrace, a traceability technologies company, released FibreTrace Mapped earlier this month—a free and turnkey digital traceability solution that maps the global textile supply chain from fiber to retail.

As new regulations are being implemented to enforce greater accountability and transparency, brands are beginning to take action. Sperry’s sock supplier Renfro Brands recently partnered with TrusTrace, a global software as a service (SaaS) company with a platform for product and supply chain traceability in fashion and retail. Swiss traceability company Haelixa collaborated with Damteks Textiles to mark and trace the Turkish manufacturer’s recycled acrylic yarn. Last November, VF Corp. said traceability is a company imperative in its latest sustainability report.

Salomon’s parent company is working with Sourcemap to track and trace critical inputs. Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Sourcemap, a global provider of supply chain transparency and traceability software, announced that Amer Sports—the parent company of athletic apparel and equipment brands like Wilson and Salomon—has signed on to track and trace critical commodities such as cotton and rayon. Amer Sports will leverage Sourcemap’s full-site supply chain transparency solution to collection transaction certifications for certified materials and independently verify the company’s and its subsidiaries’ entire chain of custody, from raw materials to finished products, across its supply chain spanning five continents.

Two common raw materials for everyday and activewear across the apparel industry, cotton and viscose (aka rayon) traverse a number of intermediary stops, from the forest or farm at which it’s sourced to retailer shelves. Between ginners, traders, fabric mills, sewers and other middlemen, thoroughly checking and controlling how and where these materials move is typically a costly and technically difficult challenge. In the U.S., legislation like the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) has forced importers to irrefutably prove how their cotton and viscose are sourced or risk legal and financial repercussions, but fewer than 20 percent of apparel companies surveyed by KPMG reported having full visibility into their supply chains.

“Customer satisfaction is one of our main priorities, and we achieve this when we create total transparency and compliance with local and international mandates within our complete supply chain,” said Pascal Covatta, vice president of global sourcing at Amer Sports. “Sourcemap is the integral partner enabling us to answer these customer needs and compliance expectations for our end-to-end supply chain transparency.”

The supplier discovery process connects direct and indirect suppliers, sites, shipping lanes and transactions for an up-to-date graph of entire global operations. On average, Sourcemap customers discover more than 10,000 suppliers during the process; since signing on as a customer, Amer has undergone Sourcemap’s supplier discovery program for one of its essential commodities: cotton, identifying upstream suppliers from farms to mills to factories within its supply chain.

“We will continue to see forward-thinking brands like Amer with complex supply chains that span nearly every corner of the world move beyond legacy mapping systems,” said Sourcemap CEO and founder Leo Bonanni. “As global companies continue to build resilient supply chains, traceability and transparency move even closer toward the center of successful business planning. Sourcemap is key to helping companies across all sectors stay one step ahead.”