Enabling transparency and visibility across the fashion supply chain

It’s hardly breaking news that the clothing and textile industry is responsible for 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But key players in the sector are working to address this critical issue and ensure sustainability becomes a top priority. From moving towards a more circular economy, where recycled products become commonplace, to limiting waste through innovative technologies, there are countless forward-thinking solutions to this complex challenge.

“The question of how we can make our products more sustainable and more circular is at the centre of the work we do. For example, we’re working on reducing the weight of our products, and increasing the content of recycled materials, as well as offering a solution where scrap is taken from our process and reprocessed into a yarn that we can then incorporate into our solutions going forward. We’re also looking at ways that our digital solutions can enable recycling of garments,” says Michael Colarossi, vice president, innovation, product line management and sustainability, apparel solutions at Avery Dennison, a global apparel labelling and RFID (radio-frequency identification) specialist.

By leveraging its singular size and scale, Avery Dennison is able to address the core problems facing the fashion industry and bring together stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain to make meaningful differences in the communities where it operates.

Transition to a more sustainable and circular economy in the apparel industry will clearly benefit the environment, but this shift is about more than just doing what’s right, it’s also good for business

The enabling of a transparent supply chain that allows customers to have more visibility over the journey of their products and production systems will be well suited to deal with waste. When a company lacks a connected supply chain, it can be prone to issues of overproduction, which will result in unnecessary waste.

Avery Dennison’s Janela™ solution is a pioneering consumer engagement innovation providing visibility of a product’s journey within the supply chain. When linked with RFID technology, it optimises the supply chain for many firms in the apparel industry, resulting in lower levels of waste and improving transparency for the consumer.

“Our RFID and Janela solution is a digital knowledge base that provides information about specific items along the supply chain, which allows for a very efficient and accurate way of improving the visibility from the moment an item is created, through to its journey on the supply chain, all the way through to retail and eventually with the consumer in their home,” says Francisco Melo, vice president and general manager, global RFID at Avery Dennison.

For apparel businesses, using RFID to identify exactly where stock is in the supply chain helps optimise distribution and shipping, and with Janela consumers are also able to gain insight from these intelligent labels. Not only can Janela give consumers detailed information on how a garment is manufactured, how it can be styled and cared for, it can also give access to recycling information, including where the nearest second-hand or charity shops are located and where used items can be donated, based on the user’s location.

It’s estimated there are close to 150 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans, with 80 per cent of this amount disposed of by countries in extreme poverty. To combat the spread of single-use plastics from labelling and decrease plastic pollution, Avery Dennison has a patent for sustainable woven labels and printed fabric labels, commonly used to show information on what the garment is made from and how to care for it. The labels are made from recycled polyester and can be recycled.

Avery Dennison is actively licensing this patent to others in the industry and donating large parts of the licence fee to Plastic Bank.

Through a partnership with Plastic Bank, an organisation focused on reducing the amount of plastic waste in our oceans and waterways, Avery Dennison will be providing funds to support a global system for recycling plastics with the creation of recycling centres in areas at highest risk of plastic pollution. This initiative reduces the amount of plastic in the ocean, as well as improving the lives of people in poverty.

“As a materials science company, we are always looking into ways of making our materials more sustainable and ensuring that we reduce waste across the board, reduce landfill and help encourage a more sustainable approach to the market,” says Mr Melo.

Plastic Bank is encouraging local organisations and individuals to collect plastic bottles and plastic waste from the environment before it enters the water stream. These individuals earn credits for plastic collection, which can be used to buy school tuition for their children, clothing or cooking oil.

Once all the plastic has been collected, Plastic Bank then works with organisations to bring it back into the supply chain. Projects like this don’t just incentivise the local community and create a micro-economy, they ensure Avery Dennison can have a robust supply chain of material and also act as a force for good in the wider industry.

“Avery Dennison is uniquely positioned in the industry, especially in where we fit in the supply chain. Our business model requires us to have very strong relationships at both a brand and retail level. But it also requires us to have very strong relationships at a manufacturing level, too,” says Mr Colarossi.

“We believe that our solutions can help brands and retailers, as well as garment manufacturers, become more efficient and take waste out of their systems and drive circularity through what our products offer.”

Avery Dennison has an influence that extends throughout its supply chain to champion issues of sustainability. From ensuring that its suppliers and the organisations it works with are abiding by the highest standards from a social and environmental perspective, Avery Dennison ensures it is driving the right behaviour in the industry.

“As one of the largest players in the apparel space, we have an obligation to continue to act as a force for good, and work with our communities, suppliers, brands and retailers to drive this idea of sustainability,” says Mr Colarossi.

The transition to a more sustainable and circular economy in the apparel industry will clearly benefit the environment, but this shift is about more than just doing what’s right, it’s also good for business.

“We believe those companies which operate and behave sustainably going forward are going to be the ones that are successful,” he concludes.

For more information please visit averydennison.com/rbis