Traceability in Cotton’s Value Chain


We know traceability goes hand in hand with sustainability. Since 2019, ECOM has set up a process dedicated to making its cotton supply chains transparent, from the gin all the way to the spinner. A unique traceability code is assigned to each lot of cotton, so that it can be followed through all the stages from the farm, to a cotton bale at the gin, and even up to a garment and its disposal.


From 2021, ECOM can generalize cotton traceability to most of its deliveries. Each spinner is then able to take over the already traced chain and complete it with the next steps (spinning, knitting/weaving, dyeing, cutting & sewing) in order to make the finished product (garment or other textiles).


Traceability allows for transparency, which is needed to achieve a sustainable, accountable, and fair fashion industry. When brands publicly disclose their information about their value chains, anyone can scrutinize their policies, hold them accountable for their claims and advocate for positive change.


We need to generate data and evidence to have information about our impact and that of our supply chain so we can help all stakeholders work on improving their sustainability strategies and be able to support their claims.


Our tools

We have developed a modular traceability program with the following components:


—Blockchain-based traceability platform, which we use it currently to track origins from the farm to the mill or even to a garment. The Blockchain is a decentralized ledger, a digital system recording the transactions between multiple parties in a transparent, verifiable, immutable, and secure manner. We use a platform that helps us and our supply chain build trust, optimize our value chains, control information, tell stories, and communicate on the origin and production stages in a simple, intuitive and secure way.


—Forensic science traceability verifies the geographic origin of natural fibers and can help red-flag fibers and materials sourced from questionable supply areas. This works as a police TV show in which forensics take a hair from a victim and from there they can say if the person was poisoned, consumed drugs, etc. The same with cotton fiber: it compares the mineral trace of one fiber with those on the databases and confirms origins using isotopic, bio-chemical, and trace meddle compositions obtained from samples at the farm. 


—Additive tracers use physical traceability of artificial markers (DNA sequence or luminous ink pigments) applied onto fibers at any stage of the value chain. This physical traceability runs in parallel to digital traceability. Additive tracers provide a more complete “track and trace” traceability system, following the commodity flow directly and verifying at more stages within the supply chain. We’re exploring different pilots with providers of these mechanisms.


—Sustainable Management Services (SMS) & Integrity, our proprietary sustainable management platform, helps us and our suppliers gather and analyze data that allows for impact management, training, sustainability reporting, yield and productivity tracking, geolocation, and traceability. This lets us propose specific and comprehensive solutions for multiple stakeholders (from farmers to brands). Learn more here.


—Greenhouse gas, water and biodiversity online calculator: The Cool Farm Tool is an online calculator that enables farmers to measure their greenhouse gas emissions, water and biodiversity, and understand mitigation options for agricultural production and supply chains. Allows farmers to easily assess the impacts of different farming management options specific to their farm. Enables farmers to earn carbon credits as an incentive for implementing agricultural practices that reduce GHG emissions and sequester carbon in soils and biomass.


—Geolocation data and satellite imagery to identify places where deforestation, water quality, pollution, and other sustainability KPIs. The Cool Farm Tool’s API connection allows us to retrieve geospatial data for soil organic carbon, soil composition, soil PH and land use change for our farmer’s and supplier’s location (latitude/longitude). We’re also exploring other platforms with SMS integrity (SMSi).

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