Baacode is the very clever moniker that outdoor sports apparel company, Icebreaker, have given their superfine merino garment traceability program. Much touted over the past few months, Baacode was officially launched this week. For as of this month new garments will sport a barcode number on their labelling. Customers can type this code into a website search engine and it will take them on a tour of the New Zealand high country sheep station (ranch) where the merino wool came from.
As Icebreaker put it in their media release: "Customers will see the living conditions of the sheep, meet the high country farmers who run the sheep stations, and follow the production process that turns premium merino fibre into Icebreaker's exceptional, performance-driven garments." Icebreaker founder and CEO says, "For us, sustainability is about transparency and being able to show the whole design for the business, which starts with the growers and continues through every step of the supply chain."Corporate Transparency
Like Patagonia's excellent Footprint Chronicles (see links below), Icebreaker have also placed a series of videos on their website that provide background to the Fibre, Cleaning, Yarn, Fabric and Sewing operations that go into making an Icebreaker garment. This is found on their website under the heading of Manufacturing Ethics, where conditions for the Chinese cut-and-sew workers are on display.
Icebreaker were key pioneers in bringing wool back to the outdoor sports industry and many New Zealand farmers credit them with saving their livelihood. When the company started back in 1994, they were able to boast of garments that were grown and sewn in New Zealand. With continuing international success they have awaken a marketplace to both the performance and environmental benefits of merino wool. This has led to greater competition, and we suspect that's been a driving force behind their reason to move fabric and garment production offshore.
Whether one agrees, or not, with this action, it is encouraging that they've chosen to be transparent about it. I guess it is fortunate for the New Zealand merino farmers featured in the Baacode program, that their sheep only thrive in particular limited climatic zones, and are therefore less of a globally transferrable commodity, than, say, knitting, dyeing and sewing operations.
::Icebreaker, via media release.
Other Product Traceability (Chain of Custody) initiatives:
• New Zealand Merino Company's Zque program
• Patagonia Launch Footprint Chronicles
• Patagonia Expand Footprint Chronicles
• Nau Grey Matters (Note: company website in transition)
• Timberland's Green Index
• Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification