Making The Fashion Industry Greener Using Blockchain

Fashion brands are growing increasingly keen to become environmentally friendly, but with the production of clothes involving complicated global supply chains, they can’t always guarantee that greener materials are being used.

TextileGenesis believes the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin could help. The company which has its base in Hong Kong and India, aims to make the fashion industry more accountable by using blockchain to digitize the supply chain, and assisting brands monitor the production process from raw materials to the finished article.

According to a 2019 report by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, looking for sustainable materials is becoming more and more of a priority for fashion companies. Brands interviewed for the report said they wanted transparency in their supply chains, but McKinsey noted that it was only a few companies who had achieved that.

‘Sustainability has really become mainstream’, says Amit Gautam, founder of TextileGenesis. ‘We see a heightened sense of urgency and a strong pull from the consumers as we push from brands to drive sustainability as the core value proposition’.

Rather than use fibers such as polyester and nylon which contains plastics, some brands want to use greener alternatives like recycled cotton, lyocell (made from wood pulp) and viscose (made from wood). However, opaque supply chains makes it difficult for them to supervise the materials that end up in the finished product.

‘The textile industry is one of the most fragmented industries on the planet’, Gautam says. The supply chain for a simple piece of clothing may involve up to seven different manufacturing stages across multiple countries. ‘The raw material sometimes exchanges 10 hands before it is converted into a t-shirt’, he adds.

His company is making use of blockchain technology to make a permanent record of each production stage.

Blockchain is an online public ledger which creates a permanent and accessible record of every stage of the supply chain. Textile Genesis makes use of digital tokens called fiber coins to provide a time-stamped record of the movement of physical products through the logistic network. The tokens cannot be altered once they have been logged.

‘With blockchain, it is impossible to manipulate the results’, says Francois Souchet, a sustainability expert at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation— an environmental non-profit organization with the aim to improve the fashion industry’s environmental record. ‘It provides all actors across the supply chain with certainty that the information is true.’

‘Once you have transparency within your supply chain, then you can reduce your environmental impact and improve overall quantity’, he adds.

Since its launch two years ago, TextileGenesis has won the €150,000 ($180,000) Global Change Award for their innovations in the promotion of a more environmental friendly fashion industry, and the running of a pilot project with global fashion brand H&M (HNNMY), tracing recycled polyester and certified responsible wool.

Austria-based textile manufacturer Lenzing, Gautam’s previous employer has been collaborating with TextileGenesis for the past 2 years and has distributed the tech to about 120 customers and partners in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Lenzing’s Vice President of global business management, Florian Heubrandner says blockchain has brought about ‘unprecedented transparency’ in its dealings with retailers and brands. ‘It allows them to see exactly where the fiber was spun into a yarn, where the yarn was woven or knitted and where the final garment was produced’, he says.

He is of the opinion that the technology can assist brands achieve their sustainability objectives, and that it has protected Lenzing’s reputation as a manufacturer of sustainable textiles.

TextileGenesis has plans to work with manufacturers and brands in China, India and Bangladesh this year.

‘Traceability and sustainability are two sides of the same coin’, says Gautam. ‘Brands are making sustainability claims to their consumers about the materials they are using. They have to be sure that their product is authentic’.

By Marvellous Iwendi.

Source: CNN Business