Denim is a fixture of the apparel industry and a wardrobe staple for millions around the world. Denim is one of the most popular types of clothing around the world and practically everyone has a favorite pair they pull on when all else fails.
But unfortunately, the mass appeal of denim has turned into a problem for our environment and for the people who produce it.
Denim is one of the dirtiest garments in the clothing industry. But the industry should practice the sustainable supply chain. Right now, many are trying to find some sort of consensus on what it means to be sustainable. Individual companies are spending on safety and sustainability certifications, like the Higg Index, Cradle to Cradle, or ISO 9000. The problem is, they pay millions to get a snapshot of the processes used to make a product, but there’s still no high-level awareness or data collection on the industry as a whole.
The industry—valued at more than $57 billion, according to P&S Market Research, which also says the sector will experience an annual growth rate upward of 6 percent through 2023. Denim jeans have been a fashion staple for over 150 years so it is not going anywhere soon. That’s why the industry needs to find ways to help clean up the process and build a more sustainable supply chain.
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According to Samantha Radocchia, a blockchain entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Chronicled, the denim industry has to follow the below conditions to ensure sustainable supply chain:
The denim industry should follow a single standard
Right now, every company and manufacturer has different standards. Levi’s has separate requirements for a denim product than J.Crew, BLK DNM or Gap. And it’s really up to the mills creating these jeans to meet each requirement.
Companies can prove their products are sustainable or more environmentally-friendly by putting their manufacturing records on the blockchain.
So in order for a mill to differentiate themselves from competitors, they get every sustainability and manufacturing certification possible—and it’s incredibly inefficient. On one hand, it’s laudable that many of these companies are spending the time and money to get their production practices certified as sustainable. Yet no one has a clear understanding about which certifications matter to consumers or how they all stack up against each other.
The industry can start by examining every standard and finding areas where they overlap. A single standard is the first step in getting to network-wide, industry-wide interoperability. Once that happens, the industry then needs a system that allows it to track how well people are following the standard.
The denim industry should create an ecosystem
The real value will come from bringing the denim industry together to create an ecosystem focused on sustainability. Once an ecosystem is established, it opens up the doors for using a blockchain payment system that incentivizes good behavior. As each participant in the supply chain achieves goals, like meeting the new standard, they can automatically receive discounts or rewards that incentivize them to continue working in a sustainable, ethical manner.
Companies can prove their products are sustainable or more environmentally-friendly by putting their manufacturing records on the blockchain, and that will illuminate who is and isn’t living up to the standards.
The final step is a move towards localized, on-demand production
This is what’s known as a demand chain, and it’s going to be a total reinvention of how denim and other garments are produced in the first place. In this system, companies will no longer have to rely on centralized manufacturing. Rather, they’ll send design files to autonomous machines at different locations, where customers will wait while the clothing is quickly made on-site.
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