EU backs ‘traceability tool’ for apparel brands

brett mathews | 13th March 2019

BRUSSELS – Bold new EU-backed plans have been announced to develop a stringent traceability tool for fashion brands and retailers. The tool aims to help the fashion sector make risk-informed decisions and operate according to a set of internationally agreed practices. Apparel Insider understands the tool will feature a technical global standard for the traceability of sustainable value chains in the sector that will address the entire life-cycle of apparel products.

The tool is being developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the European Commission (EC), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and private sector partners. Business asspociations involved include Euratex and Cotance while brands and retailers include Kering, H&M and Hugo Boss. The project to develop the tool, funded by the EU, will be complete by 2021.

The collaboration is part of efforts to advance sustainable production patterns and a circular economy approach, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production). The overall aim of the tool, say partners, is to “guide value chains towards more responsible production and consumption patterns.”

Momentum to address traceability and sustainability in the fashion and garment industry has been increasing, according to UNECE. Examples include brands signing up to circularity commitments at Copenhagen Fashion Summit as well as making transparency pledges in line with the goals of Fashion Revolution.

In 2018, UNECE and ITC set up a multi-stakeholder platform to develop policy recommendations and traceability standards and contribute to SDG 12.

UNECE announced plans for the new tool at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Forum, which convened recently in Paris. There, UNECE shared an analysis on traceability from over 100 countries from around the world, which found that only 34 per cent of companies have traceability systems in place.

In the presentation, UNECE highlighted the benefits of traceability, including building trust with consumers, developing networks among clients and suppliers and identifying opportunities for efficient and sustainable management of resources.

UNECE’s analysis has also found that tracking and tracing the value chain makes sustainability claims more credible, and highlighted the development of a traceability standard and implementation guidelines as key for enhancing transparency and traceability.

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