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NEW YORK – Apparel Insider is delighted to share with all our readers a FREE white paper on how molecular tagging technology can and should be used to shine a vital spotlight on cotton and apparel supply chains.

This research paper – a must-read for all apparel and textile sustainability teams – has been produced in conjunction with US-based molecular tagging tech business, Applied DNA Sciences.

In the paper, it is argued only a technology-led approach – which enables cotton and other fibres to be tagged and traced from the farm to the retail outlet – can address critical social and environmental issues facing our industry.

The paper suggests that the apparel industry has ‘outsourced’ cotton intergrity issues via programmes such as the Better Cotton Initiative, Global Organic Textiles Standard, Cotton Made In Africa, Fairtrade Cotton and other initiatives.

And yet, scandals such as Xinjiang, where brands have been linked with forced labour leading to huge reputational damage, prove the industry’s dependence on paper-trails and auditing are not enough alone.

It’s time to embrace technology

“Consumers rely on product labels to reflect the true content and authenticity of the product,” says the paper. “Within the textile and apparel industry, retailers and brands have for too long relied on a ‘paper trail’ that provides no guarantee as to the actual fibre content used in the finished product.”

Adds the paper: “Supply chain risks are abundant – every time cotton changes hands in its path to market, the potential for fibre substitution increases. This in turn increases the risk to the supply chain for the use of alternative cotton such as Uzbekistan cotton that is known for the use of forced slave labour in the production of their cotton fibre.”

The paper also argues that using technology could help brands sell their transparency story to consumers. It adds: “Could the use of a complementary ecosystem of technology platforms allow brands to tell the story of the fibres in their clothing with 100 per cent accuracy change all that? Would consumers have more buy-in if brands could label the precise farm area the cotton in their jeans or bed sheets came from? Marketing and PR departments could potentially have a story-telling field day if they were able to offer consumers this level of detail based on facts.”

The paper concludes: “Xinjiang should be a watershed moment for the industry – a point when brands and retailers finally woke up to the fact that the due diligence measures they have been using up to now in their cotton and apparel supply chains are not fit for purpose.

“It’s time for a more scientific approach with technology at its heart to shine a much-needed light on apparel supply chains in an industry that now needs to match its talk of transparency with actions.”


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