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Lenzing’s Blockchain Pilot with TextileGenesis Traces Fibers from Source to Store

Lenzing Group successfully piloted a fiber-tracing blockchain that offers visibility and transparency into the origins of its Tencel fibers and their journey through the supply chain, from raw material through to the end consumers.

The Austria-based cellulosic fiber manufacturer partnered with blockchain platform startup TextileGenesis, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Hong Kong-based innerwear brand Chicks for a proof-of-concept project demonstrating blockchain’s applications for supply chain transparency.

Blockchain platforms or networks securely house data that isn’t easily changed or manipulated by any one party without consensus from all stakeholders. It’s widely seen a solution for many of the supply chain challenges facing industries including shipping, trade finance and fashion.

As a key component of the pilot, Lenzing issued Tencel “fibercoins,” or digital representations of the physical fiber goods, to its supply chain partners. These digital tokens “serve as an authentication mechanism, against any adulteration, and provides secure digital chain-of-custody across the entire textile value chain,” Hong Kong-based TextileGenesis said in a release.

Supply chain partners received two weeks of training across two sessions prior to getting started on the TextileGenesis platform. The first instructed partners on how to create an account on the blockchain platform while the second detailed the steps required to conduct supply chain transactions.

The blockchain project traced more than 25,000 Chicks garments representing 49 unique SKUs in order to mirror the complexity and challenges companies will face in real world applications. The garments featured a blend of 94 percent Tencel modal plus 6 percent spandex for comfort and stretch.

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“This is an important milestone for the apparel industry,” said TextileGenesis CEO Amit Gautum, who founded the 10-person startup in 2018. “Our focus is to drive meaningful step-change in an industry where less than 5 percent of [the] top 250 apparel brands can track their garments back to the fiber origin.”

At the point of sale, consumers use their smartphones to scan the barcode on blockchain-traced garments and access valuable information, including a description of the garment as well as that item’s “unique value proposition—why it’s special,” Gautum told Sourcing Journal. That means explaining the forest origins of fibers produced by Lenzing and the biodegradable and compostable nature of Tencel.

That information stems from the TextileGenesis library housing various fiber characteristics and their singular benefits, “based on what can be uniquely claimed at the point of sale,” Gautum added. The library also stores the environmental certification for each fiber, available for consumers to click into and view.

Karen Ho, who leads corporate and community sustainability for WWF-Hong Kong, noted consumers’ growing interest in the ecological impacts of their purchases and heightened attention to corporate responsibility. “Clothing accounts for 15 percent of Hong Kong’s Ecological Footprint,” she explained in a statement.

“The blockchain/distributed ledger technology presents a significant opportunity for fashion brands to improve traceability and communicate with consumers about the socio-environmental impacts in every process along the supply chain,” Ho continued, “from raw materials in the ecosystem to finished garments—and empower sustainable consumption.”

WWF shared detailed findings from the blockchain pilot at the Sept. 5 Hong Kong Fashion Summit.

Gautum said TextileGenesis’ next blockchain project will trace wool fibers with a German-Italian producer.