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Barcodes may be used to make fashion more transparent

Date: March 06, 2014

Category: Industry news


A coalition of the world’s largest fashion brands is considering using barcode-like Quick Response (QR) codes to help consumers make sustainable choices.

The QR codes would be placed on to the labels of clothing, which can be scanned by shoppers using a smart device. This would then bring up information about the product’s environmental and social impact. The coalition hopes that the data would then allow the user to make a moral decision about whether to buy the clothes or footwear.

Karl-Johan Persson, clothing retailer H&M’s CEO, said that if you could allow the consumer to see the social and environmental footprint of what they were buying, then it could help people to choose products from responsible companies. He added: “The more we can explain the work behind every product and behind every company, the better.”

While individual companies have been experimenting with the use of QR codes for their products, this would be the first time that an entire sector had used them to help drive forward the sustainability agenda.

However, whether such information would change most consumers’ shopping decisions is yet to be seen.

SAC’s Jason Kibbey said that, while current efforts to get people to factor the information into their decision making processes “have not lived up to their promise", the increasing use of smartphones by the younger generation could see data on sustainability:

“[…]becoming more seamlessly embedded into their purchasing decisions."

Kibbey went on to say that the European Commission's proposals on product environmental footprints, which aim for transparency, clarity and comparability, may speed up the eventual adoption of QR across the industry.