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UK Fashion & Textile Association partners with New Look and Next to pilot new supply chain platform

Tom Shearsmith
04 August 2021

The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) has announced it is working with IBM, Tech Data, and the Future Fashion Factory to design, prototype and pilot a new technology platform to help drive sustainability and profitability through increased transparency within the fashion supply chain.

Retailers Next, H&M's COS brand, N Brown, New Look and yarn manufacturer Laxtons have confirmed participation in the initial pilot.

A consortium will develop a data-driven technology platform to enable real-time decision making, effective track-and-trace and more sustainable choices in the UK fashion supply chain.

The platform will help to meet the Government’s commitment to the development of new innovations of digital technology within UK manufacturing. The Sustainable Supply Chain Optimisation project has been awarded £1.4 million funding by Innovate UK on behalf of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge.

One of the major obstacles preventing organisations from implementing more sustainable, responsible practices and preventing consumers from shopping more sustainably is a fundamental lack of transparency and visibility across the different stages of the supply-chain.

The new technology platform will combine a number of emerging technologies like blockchain, AI and sensors to digitise the key processes in the supply-chain creating a shared system of data that the different parties can trust and easily act upon.

Unprecedented levels of insight will allow real, measurable and auditable actions across the whole of the supply-chain, enabling increased understanding of and compliance to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) criteria as well as improved operational efficiency.

The nine-month project will deliver a solution built on a combination of IBM’s Blockchain and AI technologies running on IBM Cloud. The Blockchain technology will enable increased transparency in the supply chain. The AI technology will facilitate the detection and response to supply chain disruption and provide the insights for real-time analysis of current business performance, rapid problem solving and optimisation of business flows.

Joanne Poynor, Head of Sustainable Development at Next, said: “Working together, we are pleased to support the development of a new supply chain platform tool for the apparel and textiles sector, to facilitate the gathering of robust sustainability data and provide clear visibility of environmental and ethical impacts to empower better decisions.”

Sue Fairley, Head of Sourcing, Sustainability and Quality at New Look, commented: “We are delighted to be taking part in the UKFT SSCO Project as part of New Look’s core strategic commitment to integrate sustainable practices across the business. We recognise that collaborating on this project will help remove complexity, increase transparency and help develop sustainable solutions with more reassuring visibility of the people and the environments impacted throughout the value chain. We anticipate that by bringing new technologies and global networks together, UKFT will accelerate change and allow the provenance of the products we sell to open up from origin to end user.”

Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), added: “A strategic goal for the UK fashion and textile sector is to become synonymous with sustainable and ethical products, processes and production. This project aims to promote greater transparency in the industry to ultimately enhance the competitiveness of UK textile and garment manufacturers, while reducing the environmental and ethical impact of the sector.”

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