Fashion brands back up Google’s supply chain platform to anchor risk

The fashion industry – estimated to generate more greenhouse gas emissions than the UK, Germany and France combined – turns to open source platform provided by Google to help trace its supply chain.

Despite the deluge of brand and individual apparel marketing claiming to be ‘sustainable’, ‘green’ and ‘climate-friendly’, only a fraction, some 50 brands, have committed to meeting the science-based emission reduction targets set. in the United Nations Fashion Charter for Climate Change.

Even with these commitments in place, the industry is on track to generate nearly double the amount of emissions needed to align with the UN target of preventing global temperatures from exceeding 1.5. ° C since pre-industrial times, according to McKinsey.

Temperatures have already risen by 1.1 ° C during this period.

In partnership with WWF, Stella McCartney and The Textile Exchange, the search giant has developed the Google Impact Fiber Explorer, which it says will allow companies to identify the biggest risks associated with more than 20 types of fibers in their supply chains, including synthetics.

It should also allow Google to deepen its links with fashion and luxury advertisers, and build a valuable database on the use of raw materials and supply chains, first with fashion, then other industries.

In a recent Google Explorer pilot test, brands such as H&M, Adidas and Allbirds were asked to upload their own sourcing data, which was assessed against a number of region-specific environmental factors, including air pollution, biodiversity, greenhouse gases and water. quality.

Climate capital

Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Check out FT’s coverage here.

Are you curious about the FT’s commitments to environmental sustainability? Learn more about our scientific goals here

He warned Stella McCartney, for example, that Buyuk Menderes, a major cotton-growing region in western Turkey, was likely to face additional water availability problems due to climate change.

Stella McCartney says the data has further prompted the company to partner with farmers in the area to switch from conventional agriculture, often assisted by pesticides, to regenerative agriculture.

The industry already widely uses the Higg Index, from a project by Walmart and Patagonia, as a self-assessment standard to track sustainability throughout the supply chain.

In comparison, Google Explorer promises to be able to assess the effects and risks of the same material, such as wool, in different regions, says Hana Kajimura, sustainability manager at shoemaker Allbirds.

“We know that wool from New Zealand is probably very different from wool from Australia or South America, but that kind of regional context doesn’t [previously] exist, ”she said. “We are working to create some of this data with our vendors, but it’s slow and expensive, and an open source library for this information would be extremely useful. “

Kajimura says Explorer has identified Allbirds’ three biggest hardware risks and what he could do to mitigate them.

“[With other tools] you are told this material is really bad, and you are awesome, what should i do with it? The fact that [the Explorer] suggests next steps or people or vendors to talk to – you are getting this material that is not certified, consider moving to [Global Organic Textile] GOT certified, here is a library of all providers certified to this standard – is super useful.

Her potential to identify opportunities for collaboration with suppliers and other brands was also promising, she said.

Google has a team of 80 people working on the Explorer, devoting 20% ​​of their time to the project, and is announcing that it will launch the platform for free to the public next year.

Maria McClay, senior manager of the luxury industry at Google, said the project was born out of brainstorming to see “where Google’s technology and data could have the greatest impact.”

It could also help make Google’s image greener. The company’s cloud division came under fire last year when a Greenpeace report found it was providing oil and gas companies with custom artificial intelligence tools to help them locate and extract fossil fuels. Google has since promised to stop making the tools.

Comments are closed.