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Confused About Traceability Tech? This Guide’s Got You Covered

Fashion for Good and Textile Exchange on Tuesday jointly released “The Textile Tracer Assessment,” a detailed guide of physical tracer technologies serving the textile supply chain.

With the increased importance placed on fiber provenance, authenticity and production, and the growing number of technologies available, the assessment gives fashion ecosystem stakeholders an overview to evaluate and determine which tracer technologies best suits their sustainability and operational needs.

The groups said the guide assesses promising physical tracer technologies applicable for improving traceability verification in the textile industry, noting that there is a lack of reliable verification for fibers, materials and finished products. Scaling and further implementation of physical tracer technologies can help to address key industry challenges for traceability and help authenticate sustainability standards and certification, they said.

“The Textile Tracer Assessment provides much needed analysis and guidance to the textile industry players seeking clarity and direction to better understand and implement physical tracing technologies in their supply chains,” Katrin Ley, managing director at Fashion for Good, said. “This is only the beginning of this collaborative project, as more technologies mature and improved capabilities are added, it will provide the industry with an indispensable tool for traceability implementation”

The Textile Tracer Assessment is a tool for stakeholders across the supply chain–from suppliers and brands to certification bodies–that are motivated to explore and implement physical tracer technologies to supplement existing traceability models. Tracer technologies are solutions that analyze the microparticle composition of fibers, materials and finished products or apply tracer substances at a certain point in the supply chain to be detected later to verify origin.

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Fashion for Good and Textile Exchange released “The Textile Tracer Assessment,” a detailed guide of physical tracer technologies.
Polyester mesh fabric Courtesy

The forensic tracer category includes isotope or elemental profiling tracers and DNA analysis tracers. The additive tracer category includes synthetic or artificial DNA tracers, ink and rare earth fluorescent tracers, and optical fingerprints, such as watermarks and prints.

“Tracer technologies play an important role in connecting the forensic verified physical material to existing digital chain of custody,” Evonne Tan, data and technology director at Textile Exchange, said. “With the proliferation of innovations in this space, we are excited to provide the Textile Tracer Assessment as a starting guide to standards, suppliers and brands wanting to better understand this landscape. We look forward to the continued alignment and collaboration with technologies to strengthen material provenance and traceability in certified supply chains.”

Current chain-of-custody processes fall short in physical and material authentications, which may lead to false claims and the sourcing of fibers and materials with unchecked environmental risks, according to the report, which addresses the key challenges in both categories of tracer technologies, as well as how and where best they can be applied to strengthen chain-of-custody models and fiber and material integrity.

Tracer technologies can only facilitate the flow of information and should be considered within a wider context of sustainability strategy, the guide notes. Physical tracer technologies work best when implemented in tandem with digital traceability and are key to supplement site-level verification, and transactional-level verification providing robust, holistic and future-proofed traceability governance, it states.

Fashion for Good and Textile Exchange said the Textile Tracer Assessment is just the start and will continue to expand. They are calling all tracer technologies related to the textile industry to join the Textile Tracer Assessment so that new and existing technologies and capabilities can be updated and showcased industrywide.