The Swiss company Haelixa has traced Egyptian cotton from the source up to premium shirts as part of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) initiative "The Sustainability Pledge," which aims to improve transparency and traceability for sustainable garment and footwear supply chains.
The UNECE and United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) have been developing policy recommendations, implementation guidelines, a call to action, and a traceability toolbox over the 2019–2022 period. These solutions, which include blockchain and DNA tracing solutions, have been implemented in a few different textile supply chains.
Haelixa claims it is honored to be a member of the expert group that creates these policy recommendations and works on projects with important industry participants to establish traceability benchmarks and then turn them into standards.
Traceability is a necessary tool to enable trust, transparency, and genuine sustainability, which are often the responsibilities of fashion businesses in complex global value chains. Brands may feel overwhelmed by the scope of the supply chain traceability challenge, but the UNECE initiative structure makes it easier to connect with suppliers, offers the required direction, and equips users with the resources they need, with Haelixa serving as the physical traceability provider.
Haelixa has created a special DNA identifier to label the premium Egyptian cotton used as a raw material in order to make the premium shirts traceable. The DNA identifier was sprayed onto GIZA 96 lint cotton in Borg Al Arab, Egypt, and used by Swiss producer Weba to create the finest fabric. Haelixa's DNA markers are applied to the fibers, where they safely embed themselves into the fabric and resist industrial processing to guarantee traceability from the source to the finished garment.
A PCR test was used to verify samples of lint cotton, yarn, and fabric at various stages, and the proper DNA marker was found. This allowed the premium product to be identified, along with its origin and specific supply chain. The forensic information was recorded on a blockchain platform made available by UNECE.
Cotton dress shirts made by Hugo Boss were made from the marked fabric. Hugo Boss, one of the top premium fashion companies and a partner in the UNECE project, is in charge of a complex global value chain, upholds high standards for sustainability, and is considering traceability solutions.
Gediminas Mikutis, CTO and co-founder at Haelixa, said that in situations like this, where the material is of the highest quality and the product is shipped from one facility to another for premium processing, adding physical traceability is critical to ensure that the origin, quality, and processing claims can be backed up.
Maria Teresa Pisani, Economic Affairs Officer and Project Lead at UNECE, said that the protection of environmental, social, and human rights in global value chains requires traceability and transparency. At UNECE, they seek to improve traceability methods by investigating fresh, creative techniques that support spotting and addressing detrimental effects in the fashion sector. As a result, it is only fitting that we work with Haelixa and pursue a common goal as part of "The Sustainability Pledge." The addition of Haelixa DNA markers to the UNECE blockchain pilots is a terrific method to connect the virtual and physical worlds and is a step in the right direction towards a large-scale, sustainable value chain change.
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