GS1 identification and data for the product passport of your clothing

Durability. No company can ignore it. Good to see that C&A, H&M, Nike, De Bijenkorf and WE Fashion are included in the Sustainable Brand Index 2020. Sustainability is increasingly a raison d’ĂȘtre for companies. And fortunately, consumers increasingly want clothing with a sustainable label. But why do you want to talk about a sustainable circular fashion sector in the middle of the corona crisis? How GS1 can help by using identification and data to help meticulously map the circular life cycle of clothing.

People more often type in terms such as sustainability, corporate social responsibility or sustainability. Logically, the consequences of the climate crisis are in the news almost every day. Right now we have to make a change together: transforming the current economy – based on growth, buying and throwing away – into a circular economy.

Time for a switch to a sustainable earnings model

It is certainly not an easy time for a change. In a crisis period you switch to survival mode. Due to the corona crisis and possibly bankruptcy, the short term reigns. Shops are closed, almost nothing is being sold. Just think of the stock that is now in storage dwindling. There is now simply little capacity and investment room to work on this subject. But it still pays to stop and look ahead. How long can we continue with the current way of working? The overproduction, the high degree of clothing consumption, the rapid turnover and the rapid disposal of the clothing. 21.5 million items of clothing are not sold annually. This means a loss of turnover of about 315 million euros. And 1.23 million pieces are destroyed every year. It concerns large volumes, low prices and a lot of competition. Somehow the price is being paid. Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it costs little. This crisis also makes us think about solutions that we need to find to make the chain more sustainable and shorter.

Transparency is a means of change, not the ultimate goal

A movement is underway in society where more and more consumers are considering buying more sustainable items instead of the cheapest. There is a growing realization that it can and must be done more sustainably. Of course this also permeates the fashion companies. After flying shame, will there be ‘clothing’ shame? You can really make a difference here.

Where do you start? For a real one circular economy you need an enormous amount of data. For example, to provide your customers with good and complete information about sustainability. You can already include a set of sustainability characteristics in the GS1 Fashion Base data pool and thus provide sustainability information about your clothing. Of course you have to be able to live up to that ‘sustainability claim’. But if you, as an entrepreneur, can say that you operate sustainably with your clothing, you are already making a measurable difference.

The way to greater transparency

Transparency is not a panacea that will solve the many complex problems in the global fashion industry. It does provide insight into how and where our clothing is made and enables us to take a closer look at the chain process. Data is key to the circular economy. And then it is about being able to identify the garments correctly and correctly and then reliably share product data about them. After all, if you want to recycle clothing, you need to know which fibers or dyes it contains and how the dyeing process took place to know whether you can recycle it mechanically or chemically. In short, GS1 standards can be useful to meticulously list all steps in the chain and to map the entire life cycle of a product.

The electronic product passport

Consumers want good product information that also provides insight into the degree of sustainability. This is already developing in a positive way, but the question is whether it is going fast enough. We live in a time where we realize that we have to change certain processes. The European Commission is also taking steps to achieve the objectives of the Green Deal. After all, Europe wants ‘a better availability of information about the characteristics of the products sold in the EU’.

For example, an ‘electronic product passport’ must be able to provide information about the origin of a product, the composition, the repair and disassembly options and the processing thereof until the end of its useful life. Identification and traceability are of great importance in achieving an optimal circular process. Together with companies, we try to improve transparency in the chain with GS1 so that we make the sector more sustainable. GS1 is of course only a small link in the big picture, but we notice that companies see the profit and necessity of this development towards more sustainability.

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