A number of industries have been looking into the benefits of blockchain technology, with many believing it to be key for the success of future industries and organisations.
As it becomes more widespread, blockchain could potentially enable higher degrees of transparency and accountability in various types of networks, including fashion supply chains.
Instituto C&A – a Brazilian multinational clothing brand – has now partnered with worker welfare organisation Instituto Alinha to implement blockchain technology in its supply chain as a way to promote transparency among partners.
The project was conceived by Instituto Alinha, which aims to connect entrepreneurs/owners of small garment factories to brands and designers interested in partnering with garment factories to ensure fair prices and production time.
Blockchain adoption in Brazil’s fashion industry
The companies have supported the world’s first test initiative to use blockchain technology to track garments through the entire supply chain.
The initiative came from Neliana, a Venezuelan clothing brand which, in partnership with Provenance (a software developer) and together with designer Martine Jarlgaard, put the test to run.
The test consisted of tracking the product from its raw material through all stages of production until the final labeled product was shipped and arrived at designer Martine’s luxury store.
Blockchain technology is also being used in Haiti in the cotton industry, ensuring the origin of organic material by monitoring all stages of the process. This action can help the country regain its market strength in the segment, since it was once a major producer.
In an interview with the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, Leslie Johnston, executive director at Instituto C&A, said:
“Transparency is about having information that enables everyone in the supply chain to be accountable for their actions, empowering workers, for example, or for governments to do their jobs by making sure these factories work to compliance standards.”
Higher transparency, better trades
For blockchain to really work and to ensure industry transparency, initiatives need to connect multiple actors – large and small – across the globe.
For this reason, Instituto C&A – the philanthropic arm of C&A – has created the “Fashion for Good” project in partnership with Instituto Alinha which focuses on connecting markets and bringing together the different dispersed nodes involved in clothing supply chains.
During the project, the team tracked and followed the journey of a specific raw material: alpaca wool.
They watched their entire production chain from raising the animals on the farms, cutting the wool, transporting it, handling it, and delivering it to stylist Martine Jarlgaard’s luxury store.
They were the first garments in the world to be tracked entirely with blockchain technology, with all the information available on the QR code on the labelling – which could later be checked in-store by customers.
Both Instituto C&A and C&A as a whole share the view that fashion can be more sustainable. The initiatives of the institute complement, reinforce, and expand the company’s sustainability actions, focusing on the transformation of the entire industry.
In 2015, the Institute joined the C&A Foundation, and since then they have acted as a global organisation that shares the same mission, vision, and strategies to make fashion a force for the common good.
The union was part of an alignment movement between all the institutes and foundations bearing the name of C&A worldwide so that they could positively transform the global fashion industry.
Recent reports have concluded that more and more customers wish to know the origin and labour conditions of certain vendors and suppliers, and this is now becoming a key factor in a person’s decision to make a purchase.
Consumers understand that transparency is a very valuable aspect of a brand, and better transparency will only improve relationships between companies and consumers.
As more organisations join the movement, an increasing number of products and materials could be tracked in an open-public blockchain. Consumers could then access the supply chain information through their mobile phones and check the origins of certain goods before purchasing.
Businesses adopting more transparent methods could be rewarded with more satisfied customers and improve their profits.
Bitcoin’s motto is “don’t trust, verify”. That’s the true power of the blockchain.