A new “pioneering” consortium aims to track and verify sustainable viscose along the supply chain.
Led by innovation platform Fashion for Good, and developed in collaboration with Danish retailer Bestseller and French luxury group Kering, the Viscose Traceability Project will employ blockchain technology from TextileGenesis to trace the material from fibers to finished goods.
The initiative, announced Tuesday, has tapped three Canopy-rated “Green Shirt” viscose producers—Enka, Lenzing and Tangshan Sanyou—to supply the fibers, which will be spun, dyed, woven and then cut and sewn into eight garment styles provided by Bestseller and Kering.
The two companies, together with German e-tailer Zalando, will also be providing financial backing for the nine-month project, which will span eight countries to “to reflect the real-world complexities and various supply-chain scenarios to fully test the flexibility and scalability of the platform,” the consortium explained.
The project builds on lessons gleaned from the 2019 Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot, which delved into the technical feasibility of blockchain and physical tracers using organic cotton as the fiber vehicle.
“A critical step towards a circular fashion industry is verifying that the materials used are sourced sustainably, processed responsibly and can provide the information needed to ensure their value can be recaptured at the end-of-use,” Katrin Ley, managing director for Fashion for Good, said in a statement. “This consortium project elaborates on our foundational traceability work with organic cotton to bring a scalable solution for traceability, from fiber to finish, in the viscose supply chain.”
The initiative also leverages the efforts of Canopy’s CanopyStyle program to eliminate ancient and endangered forest fibers from viscose production and promote the adoption of conservation standards, such as Forest Stewardship Council certification, to address traceability from forest to fibers.
“Now that 52 percent of global supply of viscose is ranked as ‘Green Shirt’ in Canopy’s 2020 Hot Button Report, brands now want to make sure that they are getting the ‘Green Shirt’ product they have paid for,” said Nicole Rycroft, executive director at Canopy, which will serve as an advisor. “This pilot will help build a robust traceability system for what has historically been an opaque supply chain.”
Some 6 million metric tons of viscose are used to produce clothing annually, and an estimated 30 percent of that is believed to stem from ancient and endangered forests, according to the consortium. As a result, scalable solutions for viscose transparency have become a “top priority” for the fashion industry, it said.
“Kering participated in the Fashion for Good-orchestrated Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot from 2018 to 2019, and gained valuable learnings about the effectiveness of physical tracers coupled with blockchain technology,” said Christine Goulay, head of sustainable innovation at Kering. “With the Viscose Traceability Project, we are excited to build upon these findings with an in-depth focus on our viscose supply chain. We are confident that the pilot will bring key insights on how we could implement such a solution at scale and across different supply chains.”
TextileGenesis’s platform uses blockchain-based digital tokens, called “Fibercoins,” to provide a “digital twin” for sustainable fibers. The system will let stakeholders transfer these Fibercoins in parallel to the production of textile products as they wend their way through the supply chain. The company has also created a fiber-to-retail traceability data protocol, based on the GS1 global traceability standard used in the food and healthcare industries.
“Traceability in the textile value chain is challenging due to high industry fragmentation and global supply chains,” said Amit Gautam, fonder and CEO of TextileGenesis. “Sourcing of sustainable fashion products increasingly requires full supply chain traceability to ensure integrity of sustainability claims. We see sustainability and traceability as two sides of the same coin and our purpose is to accelerate the realization of 100 percent sustainable fibers pledges by providing radical transparency in the textile value chain.”
Success of the program, the consortium said, will be measured against the flexibility of the solution, including its ability to operate across diverse supply chains. When the pilot is completed in late 2021, Fashion for Good will release an aggregated report detailing key findings and best practices.
TextileGenesis is no stranger to tracking viscose. Earlier this month, Lenzing announced a new blockchain-enabled supply chain traceability platform powered by the company and accessible by all brands using Tencel and Ecovero-branded fibers and supply-chain partners across Asia, Europe and the Americas.