How Soorty Is Leveraging Haelixa DNA To Get Brands Into Traceability
Haelixa is a multi-award winning spinoff of ETH ZURICH founded in 2016. The two founders Michela Puddu and Gediminas Mikutis worked during their PhD at the ETH Zurich on the development of DNA markers for product traceability, the technology that they have then further advanced and commercialized setting up Haelixa. With a sophisticated technology as a base, the Haelixa traceability solution is easy to use and can be applied to the raw material (or intermediate product) to address challenges related to proof of product origin, authenticity and sustainability claims.
Having grown from strength to strength, the company now has a wide global reach helping out brands and companies to physically trace input materials. Haelixa has particularly made its mark in the Denim Industry by helping trace , among other things, the cotton fiber used – a subject of great concern to the large brands .
Soorty Denim from Pakistan is one large denim conglomerate using their technology and providing the physical tracing of recycled cotton fibers that they use in their fabrics to their large base of customers globally. We spoke to Mr. Mansoor Bilal – VP Marketing, Research & Innovation and Holly Berger , Marketing Director , Haelixa AG about their collaboration .
Briefly summarize the partnership between Haelixa and Soorty.
Haelixa and Soorty began their partnership in 2019, over a need to have a reliable means of tracing the denim Soorty is recycling. Haelixa provides a liquid solution containing specific DNA for Soorty to spray on post-consumer waste. Once the post-consumer waste is mechanically recycled into fibers and further processed into a finished garment, samples are sent to Haelixa labs to be tested for the DNA. Once verified, Soorty can responsibly stand by their recycling claim.
What advantages do marking and tracing recycled denim have for customers? Why is this important?
HB : Denim manufacturers and producers are being pushed to increase the percentage of recycled products. As denim brands are setting more aggressive sustainability goals, this means the demand for recycled fibers increases. In order to substantiate recycling claims, Haelixa offers forensic proof as to whether marked recycled fibers are used.
MB : With an increase in demand for circularity in textiles, many brands are focusing on the transparency and traceability of the fibers and their sourcing background. The major advantage for the customers is having confidence and total reliability in the product because it’s been sourced from a credible and authentic supplier who understands circularity and its dynamics.
This also provides them with the satisfaction of being conscious consumers since traceability offers supply chain transparency that makes you feel like a partner in environmental support and that you are giving back to nature
What has been the overall response of marking recycled denim?
HB : The response has been positive. Traceability is not only a trend but an important standard that is being adopted by the textile industry. Haelixa offers credible testing (through PCR) to verify DNA in the fibers marked. Soorty offers brands the option of labelling their products with a tag, “Marked and Traced by Haelixa.” All fact-based information on sustainability efforts are important for the industry and consumers.
MB : Many brands are realizing the effects of ongoing climate changes and the consequences of growing landfills. Over the past few years, many of our buyers have been asking us to add PCW (recycled cotton) into our fabrics. But since the last 2 to 3 years, the demand has been getting higher and higher with every passing day. Now most of the brands we are working for demand a mandatory percentage of PCW blend in their collections.
How does the process work and what are the steps involved in execution
HB: Haelixa ships the liquid formulation to Soorty, where it is applied in a standard production step by spraying. Denim garments are then produced as usual. What we have also done with one of Soorty’s clients, is to prepare a unique DNA to identify their collection. Haelixa then verifies marked garments and issue test certificates.
MB : After sorting and shredding our PCW denim fibers, we apply DNA markers to the fibers, which are then mixed with virgin cotton in the desired percentage requested by the buyers to make the yarn.
What is the most common reason brands want to mark recycled denim?
HB: Marking fibers is important to maintain the credibility of the product in the supply chain. In a world of greenwashing and misinformation, brands are looking for fact-based evidence to back the claims about the fibers used in their textiles.
What does the consumer gain from purchasing marked and traced recycled denim? How has the DNA solution evolved since working with recycled denim?
HB: Haelixa marking fibers initially was used mostly as a tool for supply chain players to verify their claims of traced textiles. Since the product was first launched, Haelixa now offers customer-facing communication. This includes the optional hang tag, stating “Marked and Traced by Haelixa” or a QR code printed within the finished garment which directs the consumer to a website sharing supply chain data.
With respect to this partnership, what is possible for the future? Are you planning on scaling the recycled cotton traceability? What will you mark besides recycled?
HB : The range of textiles that Haelixa can reliably trace is vast, beyond denim. The traceability solutions portfolio includes organic cotton, recycled cotton, hemp, nettle, and synthetic fibers. With Soorty, the next scale will be in recycled and organic cotton.
MB : Soorty has always kept a sharp focus on its customers’ expectations while ensuring a sustainable impact on our Earth. We do it through research, innovation, and continuous improvement of infrastructure. Recently, we have doubled our recycling capabilities, keeping in mind the flow of demand for recycled denim. And we are thinking of coming up with something interesting like traceable organic cotton under SOCI, Soorty’s Organic Cotton Initiative.
Why is marking organic cotton important? Which advantage will it give you?
HB : The feedback has been very strong after collaborations with brands in marking organic cotton. It adds credibility as traceability is the only way to ensure that a product is indeed made of the specific lot of organic cotton that is stated on the transaction certificate or other documentation. The fact that Haelixa markers are approved as chemical inputs by GOTS is a major advantage here and allows us to ensure that safety and GOTS requirements are maintained.
MB : It seems like the new business approach will be based on the transparency of the full supply chain and not limited to one part.
What is the risk of not using a traceability solution?
HB: There are two major risks of not having a traceable solution in place : 1. Future: With regulations and communication mediums changing faster than the seasons, businesses need to keep up with the trends. Without a solution in place, their efforts to create consistent products that meet standards will fall short. 2. Transparency: To keep stakeholders informed about the fibers used, traceability is necessary to state the facts about the production processes in the supply chain.
MB : It is unavoidable in today’s world to provide a tangible with no traceability. To be in the league of dependable supply chains, a significant number of businesses would have to rely on an authentic and consistent traceability partner sooner or later.
Mr. Mansoor Bilal – VP Marketing, Research & Innovation says :
Going forward, companies will be judged on their overall footprint of traceability and reliability. As a first step, we have onboarded Haelixa for the beginning of process control to encourage track and trace. And we see great potential to further push the initiative in our cotton fields under the flagship project of SOCI to create a circular benchmark.
Mr. Abdelkader Amouche – Global Sales Director , Haelixa says :
Greater transparency is a must. Business owners now know that their companies will be asked about their sustainability goals and efforts. Our work in cases, like Soorty, demonstrates that transparency is possible.
For more information , please contact Holly Berger , Marketing Director , Haelixa AG @ firstname.lastname@example.org
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