IBM launches blockchain-based platform for transparent supply chains in the textile industry

IBM wants to develop a blockchain platform to make textile supply chains more transparent and sustainable. The IT company is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Germany.

The project aims to create a blockchain solution for complete transparency and traceability of the fibers to the finished garment. According to a German press release, the IBM project in collaboration with KAYA&KATO is supported by the BMZ. KAYA&KATO is a company specializing in the production of workwear made of innovative fabrics. The products are made of organic cotton or consist of a polyester-cotton mixture, for which recycled plastic waste from the sea is used. The company emphasizes sustainability and was certified by the BMZ with the “Green Button”. The Green Button is the seal introduced by the BMZ for textiles produced in a socially and ecologically sustainable manner.

“The meaningful combination of sustainability and digitization is groundbreaking for us. The project combines both aspects in an excellent way and promotes supply chain transparency. For KAYA&KATO, this is the decisive reason to initiate the development of a blockchain. We are looking forward to the implementation and eagerly await the first approaches to solutions in cooperation with IBM.” – Dr. Stefan Rennicke, co-founder and managing director of KAYA&KATO GmbH.

Sustainability in the textile industry

The BMZ has long been calling for greater transparency and sustainability in global supply chains. Dr. Gerd Müller, head of the ministry is committed to the following worldwide:

  • Decent working and living conditions
  • Protection and sustainable use of the environment

“Sustainability in the textile industry means to me: Seamstresses in Bangladesh are not allowed to sew our clothes for a meager wage of less than 50 cents an hour. No toxic chemicals may be used and no untreated waste water may be released into the environment. This is the goal of a sustainable textile supply chain, which we are awarding with the Green Button.” – Dr. Gerd Müller, Federal Development Minister

However, transparency in the textile sector is not an easy task, as the industry is very strongly intertwined internationally and the supply chains are therefore very complex.

Supply chain transparency from the fiber to the end product thanks to blockchain

The goal is to create transparency from the fiber to the final product and to develop a virtually tamper-proof protocol for the traceability of ecological materials. This is to be achieved with the help of the IBM Blockchain solution: The data of a transaction is recorded in blocks and stored in the form of an unchangeable chain. As soon as an asset changes ownership, this is therefore automatically visible on the blockchain. Within the next 10 weeks, IBM and KAYA&KATO plan to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which initially covers the basic functionalities of the planned final solution. In the longer term, they want to work out the developmental benefits of this blockchain solution and establish the basis for a possible industry-wide solution.

“We are looking forward to this exciting and innovative project with KAYA&KATO, which is intensively supported by the government. We want to set an example especially in this industry and offer other companies from the textile industry the opportunity to join us in the course of the further development to help shaping the solution.” – Christian Schultze-Wolters, Business Unit Manager Blockchain Solutions (DACH) at IBM.

Other companies in the fashion industry are already using blockchain technology to create transparency for customers. For example, customers can scan a chip in a piece of clothing and then obtain product-relevant information such as the authenticity of the product.

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