The Fashion & Apparel industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Moreover, they are highly polluting, resource-consuming, and labor-intensive industries. As a result, the need for sustainable fashion is increasing. Additionally, traceability and transparency are quintessential for gaining sustainability in the apparel and footwear industry.  

Many apparels and footwear businesses do not have complete information on the network of business partners in their value chain. They are not aware of the entire story behind the product development. There are ways to identify and trace their immediate suppliers but the information of the suppliers in their network is not accessible. Tracing the entire product lifecycle can help track this information as well. 

Globenewswire reports that the global fast fashion market declined from $35.8 billion in 2019 to $31.4 billion in 2020. The reason is the pandemic where the consumers realized the need to spend mindfully. Another reason is the growth of sustainable fashion. With sustainability and traceability, consumers can identify who made the product, who can benefit from the product, the origin of materials, and the history of the product.  

Sustainability & Traceability in Apparel & Footwear Industry 

Sustainability is the process of creating a balance between the social, economic, and environmental health of a community or nation or the earth.  

Traceability is the process where the entire lifecycle of the product is traced. It conveys the source location and analyses the impact of the product on the environment and society using recorded identification. It represents more of a transparent supply chain.  

Although sustainability and traceability are independent of each other, it is integral component of a sustainable supply chain. Sustainability is an event where all stakeholders in production, consumption, and disposal phases contribute towards sustainable practices and traceability integrates all of them to initiate transparency along with supporting various aspects of sustainability.   

How do sustainability and traceability contribute to the apparel industry?  

Ecological Sector 

The ecological sector identifies environmental and social, socio-demographic, and psychological factors that affect the consumer purchase behavior for green products. In this sector, consumers are more concerned about environmentally friendly products that contribute to sustainable development. Traceability conveys detailed information about the product to the consumers. Rapanui Clothing provides traceability information related to manufacturing, energy use, carbon footprint, and how the end-users can reduce the carbon footprints during the use phase of the products. 

Societal Sector 

With increased competition, the retailers are under pressure of delivering the right products at the right time. So, they initiate orders to the suppliers. As retailers perform outsource production activities, they cannot directly supervise the suppliers to understand the entire product development process. Hence, it creates a malicious opportunity for suppliers. Earlier it is seen that some textile suppliers obtained quality and standard certification by bribery and illegal means. They also performed unsustainable practices such as marginal salary of the workers, child labor, etc. 

Traceability is the solution to this problem. It traces the history, location, or application of a product by means of documented recorded identification. A unique traceability number identifies the product and its information, thus improving transparency in the supply chain. All American Clothing Co. includes a traceability number that allows consumers to trace the history of their jeans back to the cotton field. Hence, allows consumers to decide on the sustainability aspect of the garment.  

Economic Sector 

Counterfeiting is one of the biggest threats to the social and economic sectors. According to Statista, annual sales losses from counterfeiting in the clothing sector amounted to 26.3 billion euros. This figure was 4.7 billion euros for cosmetics and personal care products. Counterfeiting results in revenue loss and affects the brand’s reputation. Counterfeiting is not only in the final product but also occurs in the intermediate manufacturing process. Hence, complicating the identification of products.  

Statista Traceability Graph

Source: Statista 

Traceability information helps track products inside the supply chain. Hence, improving the retailer’s responsiveness, reducing production lead-time, and contributing to better inventory management, reduced stock levels, better demand–production balance, and more visibility of supplies in the supply chain. Moreover, traceability increases the confidence of the customer while buying the product as the brand will be built prioritizing transparency.  


Sustainability and transparency are of major concern in the apparel and footwear industry. Its impact on the environment and society is resulting in economic growth. Sustainability combines the ecological, societal, and economical sectors to provide the transparency to entire product lifecycle. Traceability is a vital component required to attain sustainability. The apparel and footwear industry combines retailers and suppliers dealing with a huge number of raw materials and distinct processes. Traceability brings in more visibility, transparency, and accountability in the supply chain to support sustainability claims. As a result of which many apparels and footwear companies are looking towards Apparel PLM software solutions that can resolve these issues and increase their revenue.