New initiative closes on full organic cotton traceability

Victoria Gallagher | 5th March 2019

AMSTERDAM – The developers of a new tracing system say they are confident they will soon be able to fully trace organic cotton from the farm right through to the consumer. Pressure for greater transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry is intensifying, with consumers more aware than ever of the ethical and environmental impact of fashion, while governments are beginning to demand accountability from brands and retailers for their supply chains. However, tracing raw material flows through the supply chain has proved hugely challenging, especially those linked to particular standards such as organic cotton.

The Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot is, in the words of its organisers, seeking to “boost the traceability of organic raw materials and revolutionise the textile supply chain.” The initiative has support from Fashion for Good and the C&A Foundation. The pilot initiative combines multiple technologies to trace and identify the origin, purity and distribution of organic cotton.

“With the work we have done to trace organic cotton from farm to gin, we are confident that in the next phase we will be able to make the leap from gin to consumer, eventually making it possible to swiftly and efficiently trace organic cotton straight from the farm to the consumer. This is good for farmers, good for consumers, and good for the entire industry,” said Daniel Jones, founder and CEO of Bext360, the lead technical partner of the initiative.

Bext360 was backed in logistics, planning and technology by supporting technical partners Haelixa, Tailorlux, and InCode Technologies, and ongoing field trails are being carried out in Pratibha Syntex farm groups in India. Other partners include Fashion for Good, C&A Foundation, and the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), as well as Kering, Zalando, PVH Corp, and C&A. 

With testing underway to trace organic cotton from farm to gin, the next step will trace from gin to consumer and finally it will need to be proven at scale. The partners involved claim that if taken to this level, the initiative has potential to become a leading end-to-end traceability solution not only for organic cotton, but for other preferred fibres.

“The time was ripe to take a bold step towards full traceability in the organic cotton value chain. We believe this technology solution has potential and are eager to support the experiment to prove it. It has been exciting to see so many actors come together and we invite more of the industry to join us on this journey,” added Anita Chester, head of sustainable raw materials of C&A Foundation.

Said Katrin Ley, managing director of Fashion for Good: “As a global platform for innovation with many brands behind us, we are excited to see how the scaling of one of our innovators turned into a multi-stakeholder effort from which the whole industry will benefit. These technologies will improve how companies can map, audit, certify, and monitor their value chains, allowing them to tackle issues head on and build transparent processes.”