IBM to help develop blockchain for sustainable clothing

IBM are collaborating with German clothing manufacturer KAYA&KATO to increase transparency in the garment production process

Image of a clothing factory
KAYA&KATO received the “Green Button” from the German government for being socially and ecologically sustainable

IBM announced yesterday they are launching a partnership with German clothing company KAYA&KATO that would see the development of a blockchain network for the fashion industry. The partnership aims to increase transparency in the manufacturing process, from the raw materials to the shelf. Customers will be able to tell whether the people who stitched the garments were treated fairly and whether the production process damaged the environment.

IBM has been working with businesses across many different industries to find blockchain solutions since 2016. IBM Blockchain’s previous collaborations include improving the authenticity and traceability of the ticketing system with True Tickets and working with we.trade, a joint venture of 12 major European banks, to create a blockchain platform for seamless trading by companies.

Director of Blockchain at IBM, Christian Schultze-Wolters, said “Blockchain technology today is being used to help increase visibility and agility in supply chains in industries including automotive manufacturing, mining, electronics production and even the cultivation and distribution of many types of food. By creating shared visibility, the technology helps foster trust among companies and their suppliers, businesses and especially their consumers. We want to set an example within the industry and offer other companies the opportunity to join us in advancing development and helping to create solutions for supply chain.”

KAYA&KATO, which is based in Cologne and creates uniforms and workwear, wants to create a sustainable textile supply chain. They are among the first businesses to receive the “Green Button” certification from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development  — a government-run label for textiles produced in a socially and ecologically sustainable manner. The BMZ is supporting the partnership between KAYA&KATO and IBM having been long-time advocates of more transparency in global supply chains.

Dr. Stefan Rennicke, co-founder and managing director of KAYA&KATO, commented “The advancement of sustainability and digitization is crucial to our forward-looking approach. This project combines both aspects in an excellent way by promoting supply chain transparency. For KAYA&KATO, there are multiple compelling reasons to initiate the development of a blockchain network and we look forward to implementation and eagerly await the first solutions in cooperation with IBM.”

This move will likely be welcomed by consumers, 64% of whom said they were more likely to buy clothing that was technologically proven to be sustainable, according to a recent IBM-commissioned survey. Blockchain will be useful for building trust between manufacturers and customers by creating an immutable and permanent record of the materials used in production.