Can Blockchain Make Fashion More Ethical?

More and more consumers attach great importance to ethically-sourced products. And the younger generation — the consumer market of the future whose signals cannot be ignored — is a major force driving the demand for such products.

When it comes to the fashion industry, ethical spending plays a great role there. A recent Nielsen study revealed that over two-thirds of consumers would like to pay more for sustainable brands. Many people have already put this intention into action. In the U.K., for instance, spending on ethical clothing grows annually. In 2018 alone, it increased by approximately 20%.

But the truth is that the unsustainable production of clothing still prevails in the fashion industry.

Unethical Fashion: Who Are The Victims?

The simplest answer would be everyone. Unsustainable fashion has many negative impacts on the environment and people’s health.

Toxic chemicals used in agriculture to grow cotton do environmental damage and may even cause death from pesticide poisoning.

The apparel industry is responsible for the whopping 10% of the emissions worldwide. And its impact on climate change will increase by 49% by 2030. The fashion industry also contributes to industrial water pollution.

Synthetic fabrics release tiny plastic patterns while being washed in domestic washing machines, causing harm to marine life. Cheap quality clothing from fast fashion stores may contain chemical contaminants entailing potential health risks for those who are wearing it.

Fast fashion clothing tends to last a month at most, and it is often thrown away almost immediately after it is produced. This causes a massive piling of clothing no one wants. Textile waste releases methane, a climate-changing gas, and toxic materials present in such waste may eventually migrate into water supplies, ending up with a place like Flint, Michigan. With water too dirty you can’t even drink it and not to harm yourself.

How Fashion Affects Workers

Exploitative working conditions are still quite common in the industry. Migrant workforce, trafficking victims, and children work in terrible and unsafe conditions every day, being paid close to nothing or even working for free.

According to The World Counts stats, 22,000 children die at work each year. The child labor problem is particularly acute in the fast fashion industry as much of its supply chain doesn’t need to rely on high-skilled labor.

In order to tackle the issues discussed above, a new technology has to be put to use. The one that has the ability to provide a more traceable and transparent supply chain, where children and any workers are not forced to work for low or no pay at all and where clothing is not dangerous to our health and environment.

Is Blockchain Technology Able to Make Fashion More Ethical?

Combining supply chain with blockchain, fashion brands can become more ethical and sustainable by bringing full transparency and traceability to the supply chain.

Every step of the clothing’s life cycle will be registered and tracked on a blockchain which is immutable by its design. All parties who are part of the chain will be able to track what materials were used to make the garment, what region raw materials came from, such as the dye and the fabric.

Thanks to blockchain, consumers will be able to make informed choices as they will be told whose hands their garment went through, what regions it was sewn, pressed, etc. With this technology, it will be possible to track conditions and ensure that each and every worker in these production lines are getting the pay they deserve.

Blockchain can also become a useful weapon in the fight against unsustainability in fashion since it has the ability to track each part used in apparel production. So, if a company starts sourcing products in an unsustainable way, it will quickly be made apparent to the public. Blockchain is being used in a similar manner in the palm oil industry to ensure palm oil is being developed ethically.

Who Are The Pioneers?

Provenance in collaboration with designer Martine Jarlgaard are implementing more transparency in the fashion industry. The goal is to track every aspect of a garment’s life through all phases of development.

With more transparency, buyers will always know that every piece of clothing they get is legitimate and that it was produced in factories under acceptable working conditions.

Chinese startup VeChain took supply chain management even one step further, tackling counterfeiting through verifying authenticity of goods. In order to achieve that, they’re inserting NFC chips into their leather products, which create unique identifications and are tamper- and counterfeiting-proof.

Blockchain Is to Transform Fashion Industry for Good

Blockchain influence on fashion is still in the early stages, there are already real-life use cases out there proving that technology can help tackle such important global issues as illegal child labor, unfair working conditions, and deceptive business practices.

Some big brands are already on the way to more ethical fashion, and blockchain technology can support them in their efforts to ensure traceability and transparency in the supply chain.

The only question remains: would the whole fashion industry actually want to implement blockchain to resolve those issues? With the proper regulatory requirements—absolutely. Experts predict 2019 to be a historical year for blockchain from a regulatory standpoint. It remains to be seen if that would involve fashion.


OpenLedger ApS is dedicated to bringing the power of blockchain technology to the wider business world. Their team of experienced blockchain developers, business and marketing experts and legal and support staff is based in Copenhagen, Denmark and Minsk, Belarus.

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