London (CNN Business)Fashion brands are increasingly keen to tout their green credentials, but with clothes production often involving complex global supply chains they can't always guarantee environmentally friendly materials are being used.
TextileGenesis believes the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin can help. The company, based in Hong Kong and India, wants to make the fashion industry more transparent by using blockchain to digitize the supply chain, helping brands track clothes production from the raw materials to the finished article.
Sourcing sustainable materials is becoming a top priority for fashion companies, according to a 2019 report by consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Brands surveyed for the report said they also wanted to create transparency in their supply chains, but McKinsey noted few companies had yet achieved that.
"Sustainability has really become mainstream," says Amit Gautam, the founder of TextileGenesis. "We see a heightened sense of urgency and a strong pull from the consumers as well as a push from brands to drive sustainability as the core value proposition."
Rather than using fibers like polyester and nylon, which contain plastics, some brands want to switch to materials such as recycled cotton, lyocell (made from wood pulp) and viscose (made from wood). But opaque supply chains can make it difficult for them to monitor what materials end up in their finished products.
"The textile industry is one of the most fragmented industries on the planet," Gautam tells CNN Business. He says the supply chain for a simple clothing item can involve up to seven different manufacturing stages across multiple countries. "The raw material sometimes exchanges 10 hands before it is converted into a t-shirt," he adds.