Supply chains, manufacturing and garment production are some of the most complex facets of the fashion industry. As one of the largest global polluters - textile dying is the second-largest polluter of clean water - the urgency for more sustainable alternatives to making clothes is top of the international agenda.
The facts are alarming: pesticides used to harvest cotton result in crop failure; labour conditions in developing countries remain questionable, see Rana Plaza disaster; half a million tons of non-biodegradable microfibres end up in the oceans every year; global production exceeds 100 billion garments per annum, yet only 1 percent of clothing is ultimately recycled into new garments because of the complexity. Most unsold clothing ends up in landfills.
Google is building a tool to give supply chain insight
At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which starts today, Google announced it is building a Google Cloud data analytics and machine learning service that will “give brands a more comprehensive view into their supply chain,” particularly at the level of raw production.
The technology giant said it is actively working with fashion, brands, experts, NGOs, and industry bodies to create an “open industry-wide tool” that not only determines the impact of raw materials production, but also compares the impacts of regions where they are produced. Its first named partner is Stella McCartney.
“At Stella McCartney, we have been continuously focusing on looking at responsible and sustainable ways to conduct ourselves in fashion, it is at the heart of what we do,” said McCartney in a statement. “We are trying our best — we aren’t perfect, but we are opening a conversation that hasn’t really been had in the history of fashion.”
Google says that the tool will initially target “Tier 4” production of cotton and viscose, a semi-synthetic fiber used as the basis of manufacturing rayon fiber and transparent cellulose film. The company points out that cotton accounts for 25 percent of all fibers used by the fashion industry, and that viscose has well-established links to deforestation.
“This pilot will enable us to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line,” wrote Google Cloud head of retail Nick Martin. “We plan to include data sources that allow companies to better measure the impact of their raw materials, relevant to key environmental factors such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water scarcity.”
“Now more than ever, the fashion industry is heeding the call to sustainability. Its environmental impact is significant and growing — among other statistics, the fashion industry accounts for 20 percent of wastewater and 10 percent of carbon emissions globally,” said Martin. “We hope that our experiment will give fashion brands greater visibility of impact within their supply chain and actionable insights to make better raw material sourcing decisions with sustainability in mind.
Image Google Cloud, source Google; article source: Venture Beat, "Google Cloud partners with Stella McCartney to pilot supply chain tracking tools”
Picture: Stella McCartney Facebook