A new virtual sustainability platform aims to bring together the expertise of the industry’s leading social and environmental groups to facilitate a more responsible and transparent supply chain.
On Thursday, transparency platform TrusTrace announced a new traceability ecosystem, a multi-pronged system for tracking and assessing the fashion supply chain. Formed in partnership with key industry players including Higg, the Open Apparel Registry (OAR), sustainable design agency Circular.Fashion, consumer-facing app Renoon and and product DNA marker producer Haelixa, the system aims to integrate each group’s capabilities into an all-encompassing visibility tool.
“We have seen a surge in interest over the last 12 months, as more brands see the benefits of having a dedicated traceability platform to create a baseline for their ESG targets and measurements, but also to enable compliance and reduce risk,” TrusTrace CEO and co-founder Shameek Ghosh told Sourcing Journal. Traceability has now evolved from being solely the responsibility of a sustainability director to that of the C-Suite, and “there is a lot more focus and willingness to adapt new and more responsible ways of working through the supply chain”—including adopting new technology.
“Given that data and compliance requirements for brands are increasing exponentially as they aim to go beyond Tier 1 and cover their whole supply chain from raw material to finished goods,” the one-stop operating platform is designed to provide deep and accurate upstream supply chain data, Ghosh said.
The platform’s first phase will launch with a Higg data-sharing integration, so that users can access their insights from that program immediately, along with the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) and Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM) FLSM. TrusTrace will be incorporating a common industry standard facility identification mechanism, the OAR ID, which was developed by the Open Apparel Registry. The tool will enable brands to standardize facility information across different systems such as Higg and ZDHC as well as industry certification bodies.
“The collaboration with the Open Apparel Registry aims to address a lack of standardization in facility information by helping to streamline and improve facility data,” Ghosh said. Through the integration, TrusTrace will be able to map all of its 8,000 supplier facilities using industry standard unique OAR IDs.
“In terms of the integration, each collaborator will be phased in to ensure we can identify and address any potential challenges that need to be overcome to scale the solution,” he added. Phase one is focused on connecting players from the ecosystem with particular brands or projects that want to use the combined services, Ghosh said, which will contribute to TrusTrace’s ability to standardize data and facilitate data-sharing between partners.
The second phase of the ecosystem will launch in early 2022, he added, with a key focus on driving physical traceability and circularity.
Haelixa, which develops physical marking and tracing technology solutions like invisible DNA markers, along with Circular.Fashion’s physical Circularity.ID, which is embedded into garments, will be integrated in Q1. The technologies facilitate end-to-end traceability both on the brand side and the consumer side, respectively, with Circularity.ID giving shoppers access to information about the origins of their purchase, along with how to prolong its use or recycle it at end-of-life.
In the last piece of the puzzle, eco-conscious shopper app Renoon will join the ecosystem and collect supply chain data from brand users, enabling consumers to check product compliance and sustainability standards and make more informed purchases.
“We are developing our interface with our customers and their suppliers, and continuously update it based on their feedback,” Ghosh said. In order to keep the robust program “as simple as possible” to use, “we do not show everything at once but have different modules pending on where brands are in their traceability journey, so they do not get overloaded with information that is not relevant for the particular task they are trying to perform.”
It’s imperative that the system be easy for suppliers to use, too. “As is the case for all traceability systems, for the data to be granular and complete brands are dependent on their suppliers being willing and able to upload the data,” Ghosh said. It’s crucial to make the supplier interface simple and streamlined, so uploading up-to-the-minute insights is not time-consuming. “We are actually seeing some of the suppliers who are working with us through one brand recommending us to other brands they work with, which is a testament to the work we put in to make their lives easier,” he added.
While bringing five programs together to work as a synergistic platform seems a tall order, “all share a common objective in wanting to drive sustainable transformation in the fashion industry, and a common ethos,” Ghosh said. “This can’t be achieved without collaboration, so there was already a natural synergy.”
“There is a real urgency for comprehensive tools and contextualized data to help bring visibility and insight to untracked areas of the supply chain,” Higg CEO Jason Kibbey echoed, noting that the groups share a “joint belief that collaboration is the most effective way to develop the best tools to capture deeper insights into the chain of custody.”
“Together we bring robust new capabilities to both platforms that will support our clients in accelerating towards their sustainability goals,” he said.
For OAR executive director Natalie Grillon, freely communicating industry insights is key to advancing fashion and textiles’ sustainability goals. “The more data we are openly sharing across our respective databases, the more organizations of all sizes are able to access and work with the data that is core to the collaboration and change that so many in the sector are looking to achieve,” she said.