Traceability and brand transparency are the drivers of sustainable fashion
The growing awareness of consumers about environmental impact and social responsibility pushes companies towards greater brand transparency
According to a 2021 Deloitte survey, 58% of consumers have chosen clothing brands for their ethical and sustainable values, while 1 in 3 stopped purchasing brands because of related concerns.
In such a context, how can companies prove to be sustainable? By ensuring traceability and brand transparency.
The greenwashing phenomenon
Companies are aware that people are increasingly interested in sustainability and changing their purchasing behavior. This is why they strive to show that they are reducing their carbon footprint or the exploitation of labor. However, behind big declarations of commitment, often there are no concrete actions. That's the phenomenon of greenwashing.
More precisely, greenwashing is a marketing strategy used by companies to make themselves appear environmentally friendly without actually doing anything to improve their environmental impact.
For example, a fashion brand could produce its clothing in an unsustainable way but offset its carbon emissions by planting trees. The company is not reducing its environmental impact, it is just hiding it.
Greenwashing harms not only consumers but also companies that are truly committed to reducing their environmental and social impact. In fact, it creates a feeling of mistrust and suspicion towards all companies, regardless of whether they are sustainable or not.
However, truly committed companies can avoid the effects of greenwashing by sharing information about their supply chains. That’s brand transparency.
The role of brand transparency
Brand transparency means that companies share all the information about their products and how they are made, from start to finish. Consumers can thus have a complete overview of the product they are about to buy and make an informed decision.
At the same time, brand transparency reinforces brand loyalty as it builds trust between the company and the consumer. In fact, customers are more likely to buy from brands they trust.
Many companies are already sharing information with their customers. For example, Adidas publishes an annual report about its progress on sustainability issues.
Traceability for a sustainable supply chain
Brand transparency is not only limited to the relationship with customers: suppliers and partners should share with the parent company information about materials, production processes, and work policies.
In fact, the reputation of the brand also depends on the supply chain. Suppliers must be aligned with the same brand values and standards. For example, a brand that claims to be committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not credible if it relies on a logistics service that uses old vehicles.
This is where traceability comes in. Traceability is the ability to track a product throughout its entire life cycle, from raw materials to the final product. This is great for increasing both customer loyalty and supply chain sustainability. Indeed, the demand for transparency pushes suppliers to adapt to brand standards and values. Otherwise, they risk being replaced by more aligned ones.
Technology as a tool for traceability and brand transparency
Traceability and brand transparency are key to sustainability: transparency educates consumers to make more aware purchases, and traceability encourages suppliers to improve.
In this process, technology plays a great role. Especially about brand transparency.
Companies can share information with their customers through:
- smart labels equipped with QR codes or NFC tags. These technologies allow customer to access information through common smartphones, right in the moment of purchase;
- mobile app, web portals and other methods for verifying authenticity, like those of Certilogo. Customers can register their purchases, access new product information, and verify authenticity. This is particularly useful for second-hand purchases.
- blockchain technology. Blockchain is a distributed database that allows companies to store information. As it is a decentralized ledger, there is no central authority and each participant has the power to validate each operation. It means that the information within the blockchain cannot be changed without others verifying and approving it. In addition, each transaction always remains visible to all participants, thus tracing the history of a product and ensuring transparency.
How brands are using technology
Many companies are already using these solutions for traceability and brand transparency. For example, Zara has developed an app that allows customers to scan the QR code of any garment and find out where it was made, what materials were used, and how much CO₂ was emitted during production.
Of course, the same technology allows companies to have complete control over their supply chain and to verify that suppliers are compliant with the brand's standards and values.