CottonConnect’s digital platform, TraceBale, offers end-to-end traceability from farm-group to garment manufacturing.

One distinctive aspect of TraceBale is its collaboration with retailers and suppliers, including DNA marker provider Haelixa, enabling the integration of digital traceability with physical traceability.

The platform employs DNA marking technology to capture pertinent data and verify the presence of marked material throughout the supply chain, from farms to gins to spinners. This feature allows brands to trace raw materials back to their source, offering visibility.

Currently adopted by 18 retailers, including The White Company, Mark’s, and C&A, the wider accessibility of TraceBale aims to empower more businesses in substantiating sustainability and marketing claims, thereby enhancing customer trust.

Iain Summers, VP of purchasing, innovation & product development at Mark’s, commended TraceBale for delivering end-to-end product traceability, offering complete visibility from fibre to the finished product.

Cat Lee, head of ethics and sustainability at The White Company commented on the retailers’ use of the platform: “With our ongoing REEL Sustainable Cotton Programme with CottonConnect in Egypt, TraceBale is mapping the journey of our raw material from farms to fabric through various stakeholders, making it completely transparent. We are able to have a clear picture of linkages at each stage along with their challenges, which are easier to predict now.”

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CottonConnect stated that the significance of traceability is underscored by impending regulations, such as the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) in the EU, which will impose more stringent laws on sustainability claims.

The sustainable cotton consultancy believes brands are increasingly recognising the need to take responsibility for the entire value chain and are aspiring to achieve 100% traceability in their cotton supply chains by 2030. However, the lack of visibility poses a considerable challenge to realising this ambition.

Alison Ward, CEO of CottonConnect, emphasised the complexity of the cotton supply chain, noting that the journey of cotton involves multiple stages and cross-border transactions before the finished product reaches stores.

Ward added: “Our expertise in the sustainable cotton sector and close relationships with cotton farmers and brands have enabled us to produce a traceability solution that is customisable to retailers’ needs, helping them reflect the story of a product with clarity and confidence.”

In July, CottonConnect shared hope that its first Responsible Business for Gins Code of Conduct would align cotton supply chain standards with best practices for the sector.