In August, 32 fashion businesses signed the G7 Fashion Pact to reduce the industry's environmental impact. A sustainability coalition with representation from luxury brands and high street retailers, the Fashion Pact outlines commitments at both group and individual level to meet science-based targets in three key areas: climate change, biodiversity, and the protection of the oceans.

Significant among the joint initiatives outlined in the document is the requirement to work towards greater transparency and accountability in the supply chain, including the traceability of materials and impacts. This comes at a time when the eyes of the world are focused on the rapid deforestation of the Amazon, and cattle ranching for beef - of which leather is a key by-product for the fashion industry - has been a contributing factor in the now record levels of forest clearance. This brings with it the risk that the supply chains of fashion brands could be linked back to and tainted by association with the devastating environmental consequences of the deforestation. 

The outcry - from media, NGOs, and consumers - in response to recent coverage, and the ensuing focus on sourcing practices is a timely reminder of why an intimate knowledge of supply chains is no longer a nice-to-have for fashion brands, but an essential part of doing business. It also underlines why greater transparency is the first of the joint initiatives listed by the G7 Fashion Pact - everything else stems from this. Without traceability, a business cannot begin to address sustainability in a meaningful way. If you don't understand your supply chain, if you don't know where the impacts are from your products, how can you make informed decisions or take action in a targeted way?

Supply chain traceability is not a new concept, but it is one that has grown steadily in importance over the last decade across all industries, not just fashion. However, the complexity of fashion's supply chains, and the array of sustainability challenges facing the industry, means that getting to grips with every step along the way for every product is no easy task.

The softlines and leather division of Eurofins is in a unique position to help thanks to its network of laboratories around the world and a service offer that includes a supply chain mapping service.

Peter Hughes, sustainability lead at Eurofins | BLC, which manages Eurofins' global supply chain mapping service, describes traceability as a combination of risk management, good commercial sense, and being informed, all of which put brands in a position of strength, not only to take positive action but also to respond confidently to questions, whether these come from consumers via social media or from third party investigations. Social media offers brands a huge opportunity to engage with consumers, but it carries commensurate risks. 'If a brand says something on social media that is not true, it can do even greater damage.'