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Fiber Firms Take Different Paths to Transparency and Traceability

Fiber brands have developed sophisticated transparency and traceability programs over the last decade.

Firms have leveraged platforms such as blockchain and identification technologies to provide consumers information about the origin of raw materials from the beginning of the supply chain to the end consumer.

Ericka Garcia, U.S. marketing and brand manager for Lenzing Fibers, moderating the Texworld NYC virtual Lenzing seminar “Supply Chain Transparency and Traceability,” said for some companies, it is only the beginning, but building out the foundation and adapting to consumer concerns is a necessity to deliver on a brand’s promise.

“Working with these brands and retailers, as well as supply chain partners, the fiber companies are doing what they can to bring consumers what they are looking, which is true transparency,” Garcia said.

Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and promotions at Supima, explained how the company, which represents U.S. Supima cotton growers, partnered with Oritain on a traceability program that uses a “unique origin fingerprint.”

“Supima cotton and samples can be taken from the supply chain and verified against the fingerprint,” Midyette said. “This allows blended or substituted cotton from a different origin to be identified. Further investigation is then undertaken by Supima for failed audit results.”

The overall benefits of Oritain’s technology, he said, are that it allows transparency of the entire supply chain, 100 percent of the fiber is validated, it authenticates the origin of the fiber, ensures and protects premium content, and its reliance on forensic science, not certifications.

“People are trying to be more conscientious about their consumption and want to make informed decisions,” Midyette said. “Traceability creates a direct link between a specific product and the land that is its origin.”

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Cheryl Zukowski, director of marketing for Unifi Inc., which makes the Repreve recycled polyester performance fiber among its products, noted that to date the company has recycled 26 billion plastic bottles and is on track to reach 30 billion in 2022. The 14-year-old Repreve fiber is now used by 700 brands and retailers around the world. Each one of them have had their Repreve products certified by Unifi, she noted.

‘We manufacture in the United States, where we have a fully vertically integrated Repreve manufacturing process,” Zukowski said. “We have assets and resources throughout the Americas, in Asia, and Turkey and Pakistan.”

Unifi has developed a process called U Trust Verification that is a comprehensive certification program designed to provide Repreve customers authenticity of product usage. It used proprietary FingerPrint technology that helps customers avoid false environmental claims and analyzes the fabric content and composition to support third-party certifications.

“Consumers increasing insist that they want to ensure the traceability of where their products are coming from,” Renee Henze, director of global marketing and commercial development at Dupont Sorona, said. “That is increasingly flowing back through our different supply chains.”

Henze noted that certifications are employed throughout the supply chain of the plant-based Sorona fabric. It starts with the Truterra regenerative agriculture program that ensures that farming practices are aimed at improving soil health.

Sorona then utilizes certifications such as ISO, Bluesign, the U.S Department of Agriculture Biobased Product program and Okeo-Tex Standard 100, to ensure responsible use of resources, manufacturing excellence and consumer safety. Dupont Sorona has also created the Common Thread fabric certification program.

“Within the Common Thread program, we do certification on performance standards that shift based on the end product,” Henze said. “We also make sure there is a percentage content of Sorona in those applications. Many times Sorona is blended with other fibers, whether it is Tencel, cotton or Repreve…we want to make sure there is a certain level of Sorona in that end fabric for performance and sustainability purposes.”

Simeon Nachev, value chain manager at Lenzing Fibers, discusses the company’s launch last year of traceability for all its fibers in collaboration with TextileGenesis.

TextileGenesis is a blockchain-based traceability platform custom built for the apparel ecosystem. Its vision is to create transparency from fiber-to-retail, and ensuring authenticity and provenance of sustainable textiles against generics. It is custom-built for premium and sustainable textiles such as wood-based fibers, premium cotton, specialty filaments, silk, wool and cashmere.

“We work with our B2B partners all the way to the brands and retailers to green up the supply chain, to make it transparent, to identify all the fibers,” Nachev said. “The future is bright for transparency and traceability and I hope one day we can fulfill the dream of having 100 percent traceable products.”