Some time ago, Ryan Mickle wrote about a pretty advanced move by Dole Corp. to give buyers of bananas a window into who actually picked and processed the banana they just bought. The idea was that every sticker on every banana was tied to an actual time and place during production and packaging that can let you identify and inspect the farm and facility the banana came from. It was a novel, but very significant move toward a very literally more transparent supply chain. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention.
Here’s something a little more micro, but equally interesting: IceBreaker, a New Zealand company who make merino wool outdoor clothing claim to offer a closer look at the actual sheep farms where the wool came from using a fancy website and “baacode” imprinted on the tag of your sweater or other item.
I was pretty curious when I noticed the “baacode” on the (rather pricey) sweater I picked up a few weeks ago on my last ski trip. Upon entering it on IceBreaker’s website, I was given an interesting little look at 4 different farms where it was likely my sweater came from. I’m not sure why they couldn’t identify the wool more specifically than 4 possible farms, but I’m not sure it really matters. What mattered to me was that this company is using technology to bring an otherwise distant and incomprehensible supply chain closer to my understanding as a consumer.
It’s obvious that IceBreaker have made a lot of effort to emphasize that they’ve put thought into their company’s footprint as well as the welfare of the animals from which they harvest wool – not to mention the manufacturing process itself. I also like that fact that they haven’t gone out of their way to shove their accomplishments in the face of the consumer – it takes a little digging around on the labels to figure this all out.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The folks who are most adamant about checking up on the social and environmental responsibility of a product or company are likely to be more skeptical the more obviously and publicly a company brags about itself. By keeping their self congratulation a little below the radar, but still making it easily findable, it seems like Icebreaker is behaving a lot more authentically than they might be if they really made a big push.
Impressions aside, what really matters is whether they are, in fact, walking the walk they profess to. They’ve left enough names and contacts in their supply chain available to investigate that at casual glance I certainly feel satisfied. I’d like to know a little more from some unbiased third parties before I’d feel as confident in my purchase as I would be by the more thoroughly vetted Patagonia, but for something discovered on a whim, this company seems off to a great start.