Marks and Spencer has signed a contract with supply chain traceability specialist Historic Futures that will give total “raw material to store” traceability on all its non-food products, as part of its environmental initiative Plan A.
Under the agreement Historic Futures will provide its “String” service, collecting information from the extended supply chain, describing where and how every product is made, including the source of the raw materials such as cotton and wool.
“String” is designed to enable each organisation in the supply chain to record and share relevant information – even at the far end of the chain, such as cotton fields.
For a cotton t-shirt, for example, it will give exact information on where the cotton is grown; the yarn is spun; the fabric is produced; the fabric is dyed; where it is manufactured.
The initial roll-out of the system is taking place this year for M&S kidswear and will be rolled out to other areas in future.
Mark Sumner, sustainable raw material specialist at Marks & Spencer, said: “Full traceability will give us even greater ability to differentiate M&S products from our competitors. Identifying every raw material source, spinner and fabric mill gives us the ability to have stronger connections with our extended supply chain, more marketing power and the ability deliver on the trust that our customers expect from us.
“We already have among the best traceability levels in the industry, but this will set us apart from other retailers. Most retailers can only pinpoint the manufacturer of their products and some, who buy through third parties, cannot even go to that level.”
Historic Futures was founded in 2003 and is based in Oxfordshire. Tim Wilson, Managing Director of Historic Futures, said: “The ability to visualise the entire supply-chain is fast becoming essential in today’s marketplace with increasing interest from consumers, complicated product safety and environmental rules as well as volatile markets for raw materials.”