Traceability was the core concept of Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags in June 2022. According to William Wong, member of the Scientific Committee of Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags responsible for sustainability issues and meeting moderator, "a simple topic to understand when referring to the GPS present in the cars that mark the starting point, the arrival point, and the path to follow," but "a concept that is still difficult to read in the footwear and leather goods sector."
How can you know the origin of the raw materials? Where does the production of leather begin? What transpires between the tannery and the factories that will produce the final product? How are the goods delivered to distribution centres and warehouses, and how do they get to the final customers? Additionally, how are the products used, recycled, and reused by consumers?
These are merely a few of the questions we sought to answer in June of last year while participating in an Expo Riva Show event with Ildemar Marchi De Almeida (CEO Conceria Priante – JBS Couros), Kim Sena (Sustainability Manager – JBS Couros), Alberto Lampis (Strategic Sourcing Raw Materials Senior Specialist O-PM Footwear & Accessories – Hugo Boss), and Luigi Grosso (Founder Euro Brand Management GmbH).
In the fashion industry, traceability is a crucial tool since it encourages sustainable practices and raises awareness of the origin of raw materials and production techniques. We now have a clearer understanding of the fresh obstacles that must be overcome in order to establish global regulations that are applicable to both brands and suppliers.
The idea of traceability from the perspective of the supply chain's actors
Conceria Priante has made sustainability a core priority since 2014, according to Ildemar Marchi De Almeida, who continues by saying, "Since 2014, we have been devoted to monitoring raw materials, their origin, the production process, and distribution to manufacturers." The best way to promote transparency and to raise consumer understanding and then confidence in products is through traceability. Kim Sena adds: "The concept of traceability acquires an even wider value, if we consider how, until recently, consumers were completely unaware of the production system and did not know where the products came from, while now tries to shed more and more light on each step of the process so that the final consumer also has the information necessary to make quality purchasing decisions, according to their values."
Both Alberto Lampis and Luigi Grosso agree with these statements, adding: "Traceability and transparency are the evolution of what, in the last ten years, we have called sustainability. Tracking products means understanding what is being transported, from where, and how, and what, consequently, is the type of product that reaches the consumer. In this topic, packaging must be considered as well as logistics because everything affects how environmentally sustainable the product and the supply chain are".
Traceability as an opportunity to increase market competitiveness
Traceability is becoming a more important tenet on which businesses and brands must build their foundations. Ildemar uses JBS Couros as an illustration: “There are still many steps to be taken in order to achieve ecological production and to put even more responsible resource management practices into place, this is a path that must be taken because it is essential to the continued success of the footwear industry. With Kind Leather, we began down this road as a way of altering the leather production system and leaving a mark of innovation in the market".
Kim Sena goes on: "Every company involved in the supply chain is connected to the others, and the JBS 360 program seeks to establish a database link between each stage of the supply chain. The idea is to give each piece of leather a unique identification code that may be used to determine the source of the raw material, the tannery, and therefore the processing techniques. This gives everyone in the supply chain visibility into the leather's place of origin, allowing them to choose what and from whom to purchase while rejecting anything they perceive to be wrong or unethical".
Alberto Lampis steps in and says that the idea of traceability is becoming more significant for businesses in the fashion industry and that it is crucial that the brand's identity expresses sustainable ideals. “Retailers must be able to produce and transmit accurate information that indicates the eco-sustainability of the items because they are in direct contact with end users”.
Luigi Grosso adds that “in the near future, more and more consumers will be interested in sustainable practices, particularly GenZ and their successors. They will be the ones to specifically request that businesses consider the effects of their productions and take the necessary steps to ensure that the rules are followed. While laws and regulations will function to support, offer uniform guidelines, and specify what to do and how to accomplish it. As a result, businesses will be urged to select ethical suppliers who can meet the increased requirements imposed by an environment and sustainability-focused economy. Trust becomes a core value among supply chain actors because we will discover ourselves doing business with those who share our beliefs. Additionally, customers will support companies that best meet their needs for sustainability by purchasing from them”.
In a world that is more and more focused on ethical and sustainable practices, those who choose to continue their production in accordance with these principles will become more and more important to the market and taken into greater consideration by consumers, who will then be informed and aware of what lies behind each product. – these are the ideas that emerged from the discussion between the speakers.
Working on traceability is an investment for the future
In times of global disaster, such as the pandemic and the war, companies must still carry out traceability since it adds value to the product itself. “These grave challenges”, according to Alberto Lampis, "in addition to being destructive in and of themselves, also impede the development of sustainability since they draw attention away from them. But in order to achieve traceability and transparency, daily labour must be put forth while also following consumer requests, which preserves the equilibrium between supply and demand".
There are many questions around these claims, and the companies themselves are hesitant to reveal their supply chains because they are frequently still regarded as a private concern. Businesses are accustomed to keeping their internal and operational procedures confidential. They must gradually get used to being open and transparent in their interactions with others. As Luigi Grosso states, “the goal of being sustainable and making better decisions for the future of the world must be shared by all stakeholders. Traceability will be simpler to accomplish once this shared and universal style of acting is actually achieved”.
Communication is the other big challenge to be faced, that is to explain clearly to consumers the enormous potential of traceability.” It is not an easy concept to express”, according to Matteo Pasca, CEO of Arsutoria, “when you go into the nuances of the topic, a number of difficult-to-understand aspects emerge. Particularly to consumers who are unfamiliar with all the industry-specific vocabulary because it hasn't yet become a part of their everyday lives. Customers need to be educated on these concerns in order to know what it actually means to choose a sustainable product and why it is so important. New media and communication must assist industries in bringing these issues closer to consumers. The traceability itself will become more tangible and concrete in this way”.