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How Technology-Enabled Sustainable Labeling Builds Better Brand Integrity

Apparel labels continue to be a valuable driver in establishing brand identity and connecting a product to consumers; however, they are evolving to take on a fundamental role in communicating product compliance, sustainability and traceability to consumers. 

As a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and signatory of the United Nations (UN) Global Compact; ITL (Intelligent Label Solutions) works closely with large and mid-sized apparel brands, retailers and garment manufacturers. Focusing on delivering global source-labeling programs that keep sustainability and traceability at the forefront. 

With this in mind, as part of their portfolio; ITL supplies RFID and QR code enabled products and software solutions that can be used across the supply chain to enhance traceability and trackability of garments, either used in silo or as a combination to further enhance stakeholder usage. For the latter, having recently launched its “Transparency; Easy as 1-2-3” campaign to promote the implementation and scalability of QR solutions; ITL showcases how QR solutions can have a positive impact on consumers who are looking to gain more information from their brand and retailers. Through QR connectivity, consumers can learn about their products’ origin, traceability, sustainability attributes and certifications, as well as circularity. There are also noted commercial benefits with connectivity to a company’s URL, in which a brand’s consumer engagement can increase. 

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Jimmy Christopher, ITL’s group sustainability officer, highlighted three focus areas brands often have when showing interest in the company’s RFID and QR technologies: reducing the social and environmental impact of their labels and packaging, improving both top and bottom line, while also promoting and enabling transparency and traceability for their customers.

This multidisciplinary purpose has evolved over the 30+ years that ITL has partnered with their customers. “Traditionally the underlying expectation of label suppliers has been service related. We were all mainly measured on lead-times, local availability and cost to serve. But brands have started realizing that we can help them improve supply chain efficiency, reduce process costs, drive up product availability and support their sustainability journey,” Christopher said. “Fundamentally, we are still supply chain enablers, just doing our bit to get those products on sale for our customers as quickly as possible but we are also able to offer all-inclusive solutions throughout the supply chain that the customer can fully access through the potential resolutions that modern label scans provide.”

Partnering with many of their customers who want to go beyond the label and require an integrated solution, ITL offers their software solution; ReflectRFID, that enables their customers at various touch points to have full visibility of their products within the integrated supply chain. Christopher points out, “in having an integrated, end-to-end solution, we are able to support clients eager to test the technology and prove the business case without having to work with multiple suppliers to conduct a trial.”

Furthermore, “RFID, if utilized correctly, has the potential to not just drive sales and reduce cost but also improve consumer satisfaction and critically, improve inventory accuracy which can only be a positive move from a sustainability perspective.” This can happen using ITL’s 360RFID solution; wherein source-to-distribution center-to-store inventory accuracy and visibility supports the sustainability drive.

Additionally, for brands and retailers looking for proof-of-concept (POC), ITL’s 360RFID can support the pilot, all the way through to the retailer’s full adoption and rollout. Working alongside ITL’s team of specialists including project managers, print specialist and software developers; bespoke products and solutions are generated and delivered. 

Cost considerations 

In addition to technology driven RFID and QR products and solutions, ITL aims to provide value-driven results that meet form and function; all while offering end consumers more information about the products they are buying and ultimately minimizing waste. ITL accomplishes these imperatives with their award-winning solution, Intelligen™; which goes beyond product re-engineering to demonstrate scalable sustainability and cost benefits. 

“Cost reduction is an important component of Intelligen™ in that by reducing raw material usage, you are taking cost away. This is in line with one of the fundamentals of sustainability: use less,” Christopher said. “Promoting efficiency in design and manufacturing has to be one of the first places to start on your sustainability path. Sometimes, even the smallest design changes can create radical efficiency improvements which translate as significant cost benefit.”

As part of the Intelligen™ process, ITL critically investigates the label design to identify where to make improvements, which could include re-engineering dimensions—that often translates into calculated metrics surrounding raw material optimization and reducing waste. Aligned with this process, ITL also focuses on alternative raw material selection with the intent to replace virgin materials with more sustainable alternatives such as recycled or renewable materials. Intelligen™ continues to underline ITL’s product solutions, including RFID, in which they print, encode and supply many of their customers with PET-Free RFID enabled labels. All of which produce scalable metrics that support business sustainability drives. 

These results can then be shared with the client so that they can measure and communicate the positive impact of their changes including carbon emissions, water usage and tree savings on a like-for-like basis. The data provided is taken from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) in a move designed to portray impartial and reliable information. Christopher additionally noted that ITL’s customers have multiple options upon using the Intelligen™ solution: they can choose to bank these savings or use these savings to trade up to more sustainable, but often more expensive, raw materials. Savings could be used towards supporting social and environmental causes close to the brand or retailer. 

To learn more about ITL, click here.