Protecting Your Brand From Fraud and False Labeling
HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS! How excited are you to press CTRL - ALT - DELETE on 2020 😅 ? It was a tough year, but there were many defining moments for us that have helped kick us into gear to take action. But as the world becomes “woke” to our social and environmental dilemmas, our trust issues with government, business, and brands are being maxed out.
By now, you might have seen the horror stories of fast fashion giant Boohoo using slave labor in their Leicester factory and claiming they were unaware of these harmful labor practices. But claiming ignorance is unacceptable in today’s day and age! As more and more stories like this are being exposed, we’re finding it increasingly difficult to decide where to put our trust (aka which brands to support).
What we’re about to dive into today is probably going to add to those trust issues (sorry!), push you to demand true transparency from brands, and help brands understand how important it is to protect their businesses from fraud.
Based on Oritain’s market insight reporting for their clients, it has been found that 40% of brands claims are inaccurate with their cotton origin claims within their sample of 44 brands. That is a SCARY high number! Not to mention the sample included some of the top ten high street fashion names.
The overall objective of the study was to verify whether cotton products from the stores where most people buy their clothes from are consistent with cotton origin claims made on their labels. And the verdict was unbelievably disappointing. But, remember this is only a snapshot of a proportion of a very large market, but this result provides evidence that there are issues that are occurring earlier in the supply chain for many products.
Ginning and spinning are known for high risk of blending and adulteration, like fake documentation for organic cotton, but there is little visibility past manufacturing the final garment. Because Oritain’s technology can be applied at any point in the supply chain, their goal is to catch fraud before it goes into retail to mitigate the risk of product recall. Auditing in the later stages is also extremely useful for policing purposes like we discussed with Steve Maggard, president of Cone Denim.
Oritain’s goal is to help brands and businesses regain control of their own supply chains by honing in on where the inconsistent results occur. This could be in specific products, SKUs, or production batches that are then followed up with additional testing. Oritain also supports communicating these results to your suppliers. All this is to give brands the power to enforce compliance within that problematic part of the supply chain.
But, I am curious to know how Oritain can pick a cotton tee off the shelf or a pair of jeans mid-production and test it to find these results. Luckily enough, I was able to steal Olya Shatova, one of Oritian’s lead scientists, away from the lab to ask her the nitty gritty questions. Watch our chat below!
In a nutshell, Oritain tracks the chemical characteristics of cotton that plants absorb from its environment. You can think of it like the way our bodies are composed of minerals, carbohydrates, and proteins from our food. In this same sense, cotton is composed of chemicals that it absorbs from the soil and water where it is grown. After a baseline sample is collected, the sample is analysed for their chemical characteristics and given a so-called ‘origin fingerprint’. This ‘fingerprint’ is then translated into measurable data using statistical models to allow Oritain to find patterns and identify relationships between the chemical parameters that they measure inside cotton 🤓
It is wild to think that almost half the products we see on store shelves could have inconsistent claims and straight up false information on labels. But, this is why we need a traceable supply chain all the way down to the fiber level. There are social and environmental implications in every link of the chain and knowing the best practice for each link is instrumental in creating lasting change. We are well on our way, but we need everyone to gather the troops!
Until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT!