The Fiber Traceability Initiative – Towards Full Traceability in Fashion

What if product information from the entire wool value chain – from sheep farm to final garment – could be traced? What if this information could then be made available with a simple QR code placed within garments? In The Fiber Traceability Initiative, a proof-of-concept is developed to test how transparency and traceability in fashion could work in practice. Through industry-wide collaboration and using competition-neutral global standards for product identification , the project aims to enhance the wool industry’s reliability, contribute to reduced environmental footprint, fair compensation for farmers, and establish standards for wool. By setting a benchmark within the wool industry, the ambition is to drive the transition to a circular economy and a sustainable fashion industry.

One of the project's objectives is to establish verified sustainability and quality standards to enhance the wool industry’s reliability and credibility. Photo: Martin Schmidli, Unsplash

One of the project's objectives is to establish verified sustainability and quality standards to enhance the wool industry’s reliability and credibility. Photo: Martin Schmidli, Unsplash

The Issue

The fashion industry produces 100 billion new garments every year, and half of them are discarded within 12 months. Despite the potential of biobased materials, most clothing today consist of virgin, fossil-based synthetic fibers, which pose significant environmental challenges. The fashion and textile industry is also struggling to establish basic levels of traceability throughout its value chain. In today’s wool industry, for example, traceability is limited to the country of origin and there is no guarantee or certification to ensure that the wool has been produced sustainably and according to high animal welfare standards. Several new EU regulations are being put in place to safeguard the environment and consumers, opening a path towards responsible production and consumption in the fashion and textile industry. However, companies struggle to find practical ways to implement them.

Our Solution

The Fiber Traceability Initiative aims to establish full traceability and transparency throughout the entire wool value chain, empowering stakeholders, from farmers to consumers, with the insights needed to make sustainable choices. This means tracing wool products from their origin on the farm to the store shelves, and beyond through resale, repair, and reuse. By developing and implementing a proof-of-concept for a QR code-based traceability solution and placing a QR code within garments, the ambition is to get a comprehensive view of each product’s journey.

The project is also exploring ways to change today’s business models. Instead of focusing on specific chain segments, the project actively identifies producer groups and works systematically to organize the entire supply chain from start to finish. The hope is that this will result in a new type of business model that promotes sustainability and transparency throughout the value chain.

The technical solution uses GS1 standards to create a unified, competition-neutral, and global product identification and labeling framework, ensuring seamless interoperability among systems. The project utilizes the VirtualRouteZ Digital Platform to facilitate collaborative collection of information and sharing of data across the entire value chain.

As an industry-wide collaboration, the project is designed with scalability in mind to inspire transparency in fashion globally. The project also aims to pave the way for companies to implement Digital Product Passports, an upcoming requirement from the EU. The Fiber Traceability Initiative is expected to contribute to reduced environmental footprint of wool garments, fair compensation for farmers, and reduced material waste.

The project aims to drive the transition towards a circular economy and inspire transparency in fashion.

The project aims to drive the transition towards a circular economy and inspire transparency in fashion.

The Objectives and Results of the Project

  • Achieving full traceability and transparency throughout the wool value chain.
    • Wool garments in Filippa K’s autumn and winter collection for 2024 are part of the project and were previewed during Paris Fashion Week and Copenhagen Fashion Week in January 2024.
  • Establishing verified sustainability and quality standards to enhance the wool industry’s reliability and credibility.
    • GS1 standards are implemented in scouring facilities, spinning mills, and manufacturing suppliers.
  • Empower stakeholders, from farmers to consumers, with the insights needed to make sustainable choices.
  • Paving the way for companies to implement Digital Product Passports.
  • Driving the transition towards a circular economy and inspiring transparency in fashion.
The Solution: Innovative Traceability – from farm to shelf and beyond.

The Solution: Innovative Traceability – from farm to shelf and beyond.

Our Work

The venture is a collaboration between actors from the entire value chain. Already on board are Axfoundation, GS1 Sweden, Filippa K, another renowned international fashion brand (unofficial), as well as VirtualRouteZ. The venture is also supported by Textile Exchange and other key organizations. Axfoundation is leading The Fiber Traceability Initiative, and as an independent, non-profit entity, Axfoundation’s role is to coordinate brands and other stakeholders that typically compete with each other.

Cross-border collaboration is crucial in accelerating the transition to a circular economy. Industry-wide collaboration will also be instrumental in setting a reliable and effective solution that inspires transparency and traceability in fashion.

– Stina Behrens, Project Manager Future Materials, Axfoundation

EU Regulations Towards a Sustainable Textile Industry

The EU has adopted multiple regulations and directives to ensure product safety and traceability across various industries, including the textile sector. The purpose is to safeguard the environment and consumers while promoting responsible production and consumption. By implementing traceability systems, companies can demonstrate compliance with stringent standards and rules. The Fiber Traceability Initiative’s solution aims to assist companies to adhere to regulations such as:

  • The Textile Strategy: The EU Parliament passed the new Textile Strategy on June 1, 2023, with stricter requirements on the textile industry to achieve social and environmental sustainability. The strategy requires, among other things, that producers will have the responsibility to ensure that textiles can be repaired, reused, or recycled.
  • The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation: This legislation will require a Digital Product Passport (DPP) for most goods available on the European market. The objective is to promote sustainable manufacturing and consumption, speed up the transition to a circular economy, and facilitate traceability and transparency for products.

Partners

Axfoundation, Filippa K, GS1 Sweden, VirtualRouteZ and a renowned international fashion brand (unofficial).

The Fiber Traceability Initiative is welcoming more brand partners to join the journey. For more information, reach out to the project Manager Stina Behrens.

Projects within Future Materials

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