Cotton and viscose will be the first raw materials analysed by Google’s machine-learning algorithms © AFP/Getty Images
Cotton and viscose will be the first raw materials analysed by Google’s machine-learning algorithms © AFP/Getty Images

Google to develop tool for responsible textile sourcing

20 May 2019

Google is developing a tool which will use data analytics and machine-learning to enable fashion brands to make responsible sourcing decisions.

The project, which was announced at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, will see Google partnering with luxury brand Stella McCartney on a pilot to collect data with the aim of providing brands with greater transparency into the environmental impact of textiles.

The pilot will first look at two of the most commonly-used materials in fashion, cotton and viscose, chosen due to the scale of their production, the availability of data and impact considerations.

The pilot will be looking at tier four of supply chains, where brands often have little visibility. Data will be collected from brands, manufacturers, NGOs and academics which will be run through Google’s machine-learning algorithms to interpret complex data sets.

According to Business of Fashion, the aim of the tool is to “provide granular, local insights on a range of different metrics, including emissions, water use and pollution, and soil impact, that brands can use to help guide design and sourcing decisions”.

Speaking at the summit, Google Cloud head of retail, Nick Martin, said: “This pilot will enable us to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line.

“We plan to include data sources that allow companies to better measure the impact of their raw materials relevant to key environmental factors, such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water scarcity,” he said.

The first iteration of the tool is set to be completed next year with a goal of further versions being created for fashion brands to use for sourcing other materials.

Meanwhile at the summit, a report published by the Global Fashion Agenda revealed “fashion companies are not implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to counterbalance negative environmental and social impacts of the rapidly growing industry”.

“Companies must push harder, with more focused and coordinated efforts, to overcome technological and economic limitations that hinder progress,” the report said.

French president Emmanuel Macron has appointed Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault to head a coalition of CEOs and top bands to set ambitious sustainability targets, the summit heard.

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