RFID elevates circular fashion

RFID technology can help retailers improve their sustainability practices and reduce waste by providing greater visibility into the supply chain, improving inventory management and enhancing the customer experience.
sales associate scanning RFID tags

Sustainability has become increasingly important in both the fashion and logistics sectors. Nearly a third of customers have stopped shopping at specific retailers because of ethical and environmental concerns, and retailers are now looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly. Retailers must demonstrate a strong move toward circular fashion — with consumers becoming more aware of their role in waste creation and the negative environmental impact of global supply chains.

To appeal to environmentally aware customers without compromising profitability, fashion retailers must adapt their strategies and procedures to accommodate the circular fashion economy. RFID technology can provide retailers with a solution for improving their sustainability practices.

Data-driven supply chains

Data and traceability are vital to making fashion more sustainable. If retailers do not have visibility in their supply chain from beginning to end, then retailers cannot understand the environment and brands cannot be transparent or sustainably change their supply chains. Not only can digitizing supply networks through RFID technology improve efficiency and transparency, which are vital for lowering total environmental effects, but doing so also provides retailers with detailed information about their supply chain network.

RFID tags provide item-level traceability where customers can access data to learn more about their products, such as how the materials are made and the journeys they have been on. The customer now has access to this specific information, helping them to understand and verify sustainable sourcing, and improving the likelihood of products being purchased.

Reducing waste through RFID technology

To help reduce retail waste, merchandisers must decrease the number of products shipped to landfills each year. To achieve sustainable fashion retail, RFID technology enables brands to reuse stock and reduce the amount of raw materials needed for item creation. Retailers can modify stock, reducing material consumption during the early stages of production and they can also determine understated or excess inventory, which has a highly significant impact on waste reduction. The environment also benefits from retailers that operate based on leaner inventory models, as they can reduce operating costs without sacrificing sales volume. By doing so, clearance products are reduced while eliminating the need to mark items and perform reverse logistics on unsold items.

Retailers can conduct stock counts regularly with an increased inventory accuracy between 93% to 99% by using RFID technology. This is critical for the sustainability of fashion retail since more effective inventory logistics implies less waste along the supply chain and in storefronts. If brands begin implementing RFID solutions for sustainable fashion, retailers can be confident that they are only procuring what they require, and they can swiftly adapt to customer trends, creating only what will likely sell. This reduces overstocking and improves transportation efficiency.

Elevating circular fashion

Item-level RFID technology is widely recognized for enhancing the customer experience and reducing in-store pressures. However, the technology can also be deployed to advance circular fashion. With enhanced traceability and inventory accuracy, retailers are able to effectively reduce waste and carbon emissions, as well as improve their sustainability practices significantly.

By providing greater visibility into the supply chain, improving inventory management, and enhancing the customer experience, RFID technology can help retailers improve their sustainability practices and reduce waste.

Dean Frew

Dean Frew is the chief technology officer and senior vice president of RFID solutions at SML Group and founder of SML RFID. With more than 20 years experience of delivering RFIDsolutions to retailers and brand owners around the globe, Dean is responsible for SML’s overall strategy in driving forward its RFID tags and solutions.