Marks & Spencer is the first major retailer to commit to full traceability of all non-food products, including clothing. In a deal signed with Historic Futures, a firm that specializes in tracing supply chains, the British department store is poised to identify “every raw material source, spinner, and fabric mill” on every garment and home product it sells, according to Mark Sumner, a sustainable raw material specialist at M&S. “Full traceability will give us even greater ability to differentiate M&S products from our competitors,” he says.

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Using a tracking service known as “String,” Historic Futures will work with M&S to collect information on the company’s supply chain. Beginning this year with kidswear, every product will be traced from seed to shelf. For a cotton T-shirt, for instance, the program will harvest data on where the cotton is grown, the yarn is spun, the fabric produced and dyed, and finally, where it’s finished.

Because of growing scrutiny from consumers, supply-chain traceability is fast becoming a necessity in today’s marketplace.

“Most retailers can only pinpoint the manufacturer of their products and some, who buy through third parties, cannot even go to that level,” says Sumner. By maintaining tabs on every aspect of production, M&S will benefit from “stronger connections” with its vendors, increased marketing power, and improved trust with customers, he adds.

Because of growing scrutiny from consumers, along with tighter environmental restrictions and volatile markets for raw materials, full supply-chain traceability is fast becoming a necessity in today’s marketplace, says Tim Wilson, managing director of Historic Futures. “This deal clearly identifies M&S as world leaders and demonstrates their commitment to quality and to the Plan A program.”

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[Via GreenWise Business]