Driving Sustainability Through RFID Technology

A growing number of brands are helping to pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Sustainability has been a small facet of larger business plans and goals for years, falling by the wayside other initiatives like growth strategies and digital transformation. Recently, however, it has quickly become one of the top priorities for industry leaders, executives, and customers around the world – especially after such a disruptive and influential year as 2020. The fashion industry, in particular, is an industry where consumers are demanding sweeping changes in Regarding the way products are made, what products make up and how they are managed. More and more brands are committed to this claim and pave the way to a more sustainable future.

The fashion industry accounts for a total of around 32 million of the 57 million tons of polyester used annually, only 14 percent of it from recycled material. In addition, is after UN environmental programthe industry produces an estimated 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all international flights and shipping combined. At this rate, those numbers could increase by more than 50 percent by 2030 without proper intervention.

From a consumer perspective, it is clear that the industry’s negative environmental impact is influencing their decision making on certain purchases. Indeed, a new one report from the Clean Manufacturing Leader Genomatics found that 86 percent of respondents think sustainability is a good goal, while 52 percent think it’s important and make conscious choices to be more sustainable, and more than a third say they all do their shopping if there was a shop selling sustainable clothing. There. Because of this, older brands like Levi’s, Patagonia and Stella McCartney have built their identities around doing business sustainably, and there are plenty of small to medium-sized brands that have followed suit and continue to do so.

Three factors that have a direct impact on sustainability
Implementing RFID technology in supply chains gives brands better visibility into inventory levels and automates traditional, manual practices that, in turn, reduce negative environmental impacts. By using RFID solutions at item level, manufacturers can manage inventory with a higher level of accuracy of up to 98 percent and adjust production plans accordingly.

These include reducing the number of products shipped and limiting the amount of exorbitant materials and resources that end up in landfills and the gas emissions associated with moving goods. For example, a brand has successfully reduced 20 million inventory units per year while increasing sales, eliminating around 400 shipping containers full of clothes that no longer needed to be manufactured, shipped and distributed, saving products, time and money.

In addition, the use of innovative RFID tagging products made from easily recyclable materials helps promote more sustainable processes, including those made from discarded plastic bottles, recycled polyester or 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper. These converted RFID tags don’t contain polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and the inlay is instead replaced with a recyclable paper backing, helping to reduce the product’s carbon footprint by 10 to 16 percent compared to traditional PET RFID tags.

After the PET materials have been removed, the integrated circuit (IC) and antenna are placed directly on the paper, making the components easier to separate and therefore easier to recycle. This also cuts the degradation time of the labels from five to ten years to just six weeks while improving the durability, longevity and functionality of the products without compromising a brand’s sustainability and carbon footprint reduction goals.

Finally, by using 3D and augmented reality solutions, companies can create patterns in a completely virtual space to reduce waste and eliminate unnecessary materials. Instead of waiting for physical samples, bespoke clothing catalogs can instead be provided with high quality digital previews showing how different branded items would look on each product. Additionally, the adoption of this technology has proven important for brands to succeed in their commitment to sustainability and to drive these initiatives forward.

In order to minimize negative environmental impacts, the industry has a responsibility to push itself forward and advocate for more technology-oriented solutions to lead the way in promoting sustainability. Success is possible, but it will be limited if the industry doesn’t rise to the challenge of creating a better environment – be it a tag, a fabric, or managing inventory – and proves that the smallest changes can make the biggest difference .

Dean Frew is Chief Technology Officer and Senior VP for RFID Solutions at SML group, and the founder of SML Intelligent Inventory Solutions (formerly Xterprise, bought by SML in 2013). Dean is responsible for developing SML’s RFID tag and solution strategy and leads the company’s RFID solutions division based on his over 20 years of experience delivering RFID solutions to retailers and brand owners around the world. To learn more about SML’s own sustainability efforts, five-year goals and progress to date, read the SML Sustainability Report 2021.