Sourcing Journal: Sorona® Debuts Preferred Mill Network to Enhance Supply Chain Visibility
Sorona® is taking the next step to build a more transparent, traceable supply chain, launching a Preferred Mill Network for trusted, certified mills. The network will serve as a natural complement to the already established Common Thread Fabric Certification Program, which now includes more than 350 mills worldwide.
The network is designed as a signal to brands seeking sustainable fabric sources with specific performance attributes, indicating which mills carry certified fabrics with scientifically proven levels of Sorona®. The preferred mills will also gain access to promotional materials to support their communications with brands about their fabric offerings. According to global brand and communications leader Alexa Raab, Sorona® plans to develop case studies and sample books with the partner mills and will provide additional information about certified mills on the website.
Certification is a rigorous, scientific process. Mills must send many fabric samples back to DuPont’s lab for testing to ensure they possess both the high quality and performance requirements. This makes a partner network that much more necessary, as it enables brands to easily select mills with certified fabrics backed by sustainability claims.
“If you are picking up a parka that says it contains Sorona® Aura, you know that the insulation within that parka contains a certain amount of bio-based polymer and fabric, and it’s going to withstand the performance tasks that we at Sorona® have established for warmth and breathability,” Raab told Sourcing Journal.
With the 2020 Common Thread certification launch, the biomaterials company wanted to develop trust and transparency throughout the supply chain by guaranteeing a level of consistency among its partner mills. Beyond the performance attributes for the five sub-brand fabric types, which include Agile, Aura, Luxe, Profile and Revive, mills and brands using certified fabrics also have access to the proper brand colors and even the correct marketing language to discuss the bio-based components of the polymer included in the fabrics.
“We are enabling apparel customers greater visibility to understand where to buy,” Raab said. “A brand can easily access this mill network now and know, which mills they can work with to accurately make these sustainability claims. That has really helped end customers, too. It’s about reaching all different members of the value chain.”
The Preferred Mill Network is part of the brand’s recent efforts to more clearly communicate sustainability standards and impacts. Alongside a new website, Sorona® launched a customer portal in February 2021 so that apparel clients can immediately request access to certain assets associated with Sorona®’s sub-brands and access the partner mills.
“Our aim with this program is to support mills that are fostering conversations at the brand level about sustainable fabric choices,” Raab said. “My hope is that brands will get to a point where they are specifying that they want Sorona®. I think we’re seeing a little bit more of that. But it’s really about the mills and how we can support them in educating brands on the fabrics available from a sustainable polymer bio-based level. We want to be part of that conversation.”
As part of its expanded certification capabilities over the past year, Sorona® also developed hangtags designed to deliver transparency about the end garment’s materials and further tell the brand story. Thus far, nearly 44 million garments worldwide sport Sorona® hangtags.
“When a garment features one of our sub-branded fabrics, brands can use these hangtags to easily signal the performance and sustainability qualities of the piece to their consumers,” Raab said.
Raab advised mills seeking inclusion in the certification program and the Preferred Mill Network to learn more about the individual performance characteristics and fibers that comprise the sub-brands.
Sorona®’s most-certified fabric type across its sub-brands is Sorona® Agile, which is a spandex replacement fiber for athleisure and activewear designed to help provide better stretch recovery, resistance to heat, UV rays and chlorine. But for the long term, the fiber producer ideally wants to continue to expand the certification program globally and further educate its mills, partner brands and consumers on the company’s sustainability efforts.
“The audience that is really curious about sustainability—they are going to be the decision makers,” Raab said. “I would love for people to talk about Sorona® in the same way that they talk about Cordura or Supima, because they do such a great job at the brand level. We’ll just have to continue to grow and educate people on who we are.”