Traceability for Clothing
Find out more about how Rapanui products are made with our interactive maps, pictures and video.
We started our company in a garden shed with a mission: make clothing more sustainable. We use design and technology to make products that are less harmful to the environment. For us traceability is about helping our customers make better choices through improving the information when deciding what to buy. We believe that people really do care, and we're working on ways to take the massive power of change that consumers have and direct it towards more positive outcomes.
It's not that people don't care, it's just that they don't know
We decided that we'd try to develop ways to tell the story of a product in a way that is fast, easy and compatible with online shopping. Our interactive traceability maps allow customers to explore the journey of the product at the point of purchase.
When we first launched these maps back in 2009, they were among the first to trace the present the product supply chain through fabrics, manufacturing, energy use and transport, as well as mixing in some info on post purchase. You can find this kind of information on every product page on Rapanui and Teemill.
Our trace maps make it easier to see how our products are made. That makes it easier for people to make better choices. From the field to our factory in the UK, shoppers can discover the story of their product on a phone by scanning the label on any of our products.
We are really proud of our supply chain and the direction it is going. Traceability is a great way to help customers make better choices. It's also had the unexpected benefit of improving sales and product quality: Customers actually value the products more when they can see how much care and attention to detail has gone into the manufacturing. We also proved the concept that consumers, once empowered, make the right choice: Our best, cleanest products have seen sales rise whilst we've been forced to discontinue products made from less sustainable materials or less clear provenance, as sales dropped - The mechanism works.
So our response is to do even more: We're currently investing in a next generation of traceability maps to enable customers to zoom out to less detail and drill down on the stuff they care most about.
What it took to do it.
It's not been particularly difficult for us to map and present all of this data. When you buy certified orgnaic products from ethically accredited suppliers, there's always a papertrail that you can follow. So we just started arranging meetings or calls to find out more. These days there are far more people working on this issue, and so suppliers are better prepared. That trajectory is encouraging. More recently we're into visiting factories and walking through the supply chains ourselves as we get a better feel for the whole picture.
Audits matter and we respect the expertise, yet we've learned that the best way to get a full picture is old-skool eye-ball: We visit our suppliers factories personally.
Does this mean all our products are super sustainable? Well, our products are without question better for the environment and the people in the supply chain than the average right now, by quite a long way. The thing is, there's always an improvement opportunity. We see it as our duty simply to make it easier for people to find out where clothing comes from, how it is made and who made it, at the point of purchase.
Once consumers are enabled to make decisions that better represent their values, the best judge of our performance will be how they vote with their wallet.
Having established a traceability tool that works, customers have responded by buying products that are made the right way. We now aim to respond to that demand by doing even more for the materials, energy and people in the supply chain, whilst improving the clarity and ease with which we communicate what our products are made from and how they are made.
We also want to de-restrict this business model from Rapanui's growth and accelerate it's uptake by making it easy and accessible for anyone to access a better supply chain like this one. That's why we built Teemill, which shares the same supply chain, values, and traceability tools whilst leveraging our new real-time production technology. Anyone can start a business using this supply chain, for free, at teemill.com