Is your clothing brand guilty of ‘greenwashing’?

Consumers are increasingly seeking out clothing products that come from sustainable sources, but manufacturers can sometimes been economical with the truth when it comes to the environmental footprint of their products.

Just this week, sportswear giant Nike was hit by a lawsuit in the US which claims it has misrepresented products as being “sustainable,” made with “sustainable materials,” and “environmentally friendly.” The suit claims that Nike is doing so to increase profits and gain a competitive advantage over rivals.

Whether or not the company is at fault in this particular case, it is a sign that customers are increasingly determined to hold brandowners to account over their sustainability claims. And that is dovetailing with regulatory moves, including initiatives in Europe and the US that aim to clamp down on the use of vague claims like “environmentally friendly.”

Now, Dutch startup Aware says it has introduced a digital passport that manufacturers can use on their products to track sustainable textiles both physically and digitally throughout every step of the supply chain on a blockchain.

Brands using it will be able to “restore consumer trust and track their true environmental impact,” says the company, which has piloted the system with several companies including German sustainable fashion brand Armed Angels.

Using the technology, a physical tracer is embedded in the sustainable fibre that can be read by any manufacturing partner in the chain with a bespoke hand scanner, according to Aware, with suppliers sharing proprietary information on the blockchain. Consumers can also see the entire chain and its impact on their phones with a scan of a QR code in the label of the sustainable product.

“Our technology is, if you want to use a buzzword, is ‘phygital,’ because textiles are linked one-to-one with a virtual copy,” according to Feico van der Veen, founder and managing director of Aware. “Fraud is useless because once uploaded, the information is immediately visible and cannot be changed on the public blockchain.”

“Getting first-hand data ultimately creates a transparent network of makers that can be trusted by both brands and consumers.”

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