What is the Difference Between Traceability and Transparency in the Fashion Industry?

July 26, 2023

Over the last decade, there has been a growing focus on understanding the complexities of the global apparel industry. As consumers become more aware of the ethical and environmental issues associated with clothing production, they are increasingly looking for ways to make sure their fashion purchases align with their values.

Two concepts come into play here — traceability and transparency.

So, what do traceability and transparency mean in the context of fashion supply chains? And what is the difference between the two?

Let’s start with traceability.

What is traceability?

Garments are composed of multiple components — fabric, buttons, zippers, trims — each sourced from different suppliers around the world. Traceability is the ability to track and trace every single item used to create a piece of clothing. Knowing the origin of each individual component allows you to prove that all parts of the garments are ethically sourced and created in safe working conditions.

For example, consider a cotton T-shirt. Brands and retailers may want to track the cotton used all the way back to the farm where it was grown to confirm it was sourced sustainably and without the use of forced labor or other non-ethical means. They can follow its journey through spinning mills, dyeing facilities, and garment factories, making sure each vendor or factory in the process respects human rights and environmental standards.

What is transparency?

As a brand or retailer, being transparent means you are willing to share information about your products, production processes, and social and environmental impact with your stakeholders, including customers and the wider public. From publishing sustainability reports to offering a behind-the-scenes look into the life of your artisans, transparency is an important part of building trust with your consumers and stakeholders. Transparency allows you to make informed decisions and be held accountable, creating a culture of trust and openness in the industry.

For example, you can provide detailed information about the materials used in your garments, what certifications your factories hold, or what steps you take to minimize your environmental footprint. You might offer insights into your factory conditions through videos or photos posted on your website or shared through your communication channels.

So, which one is more important, traceability or transparency?

It’s important to remember that traceability and transparency go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. Traceability enables transparency, as it allows you to reveal your supply chain and share the details with your stakeholders. Without it, there’s no way to verify if your claims about your production processes and sustainability standards are true.

Traceability is about knowing where our clothes come from, while transparency is about sharing that story with others.

Together, they create a system of accountability and trust that is essential for creating a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. By prioritizing both traceability and transparency, you will not only be able to better understand and manage your social and environmental impacts but also build a stronger, more responsible reputation with your stakeholders.

Build a more transparent supply chain with Inspectorio

At Inspectorio, we are committed to helping you create a more transparent supply chain through our platform. Our cloud-based technology makes it easy for you to trace each garment back to its origin, giving you the visibility and control you need to ensure your products meet your quality and sustainability standards.

  • Visualize the entire supply chain in one place and quickly identify relationships between suppliers and sub-suppliers.
  • Understand risk exposure across the different production regions and get detailed insights into each supplier’s individual performance.
  • Mitigate risk by increasing accountability through a collaborative network approach.
  • Strengthen your brand reputation and stay compliant in a changing regulatory landscape.
  • Digitize the collection of evidence throughout the value chain to substantiate product and business claims.
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