Ask Dr. Kate: Top 5 Cotton Traceability Questions Answered

By Dr. Kate Jones | 13 October 2023

minutes to read.

ORITAIN Kate Jones cotton fashion v2

Oritain’s Scientific Advisor, Dr. Kate Jones, addresses some of the most frequently asked questions, shedding light on the crucial processes and ethical implications within the cotton supply chain.


1. How prevalent are fraud and unethical practices in cotton supply chains? 

Fraud and unethical practices are much more common in supply chains than you may realize. The complexity and opacity of modern supply chains, coupled with opportunities for raw material substitution and blending, create ample space for fraud, particularly when trying to take advantage of premiumization aspects or improve profitability. 

Unethical practices have long plagued the fashion industry, evident through cheap labor costs and razor-thin margins, among other factors. Such actions can go all the way back to the production of raw cotton material. Forced and child labor, for instance, are known issues in some regions during the cultivation and picking processes. 

This cotton then finds its way into the global supply chain and, even if the manufacturing processes have been audited and appear to be ethical, the supply chain can still be tainted with forced labor if the raw material is not verified as originating from an acceptable source.


2. What sets Oritain’s forensic isotopic testing apart from other verification methods? 

Unlike traditional traceability methods, Oritain’s forensic science tests the product or raw material itself to verify its origin and authenticity. How? Every plant and living thing is influenced by several naturally occurring factors, including altitude, temperature, precipitation, soil composition, and even the bedrock of a region. These factors create a distinctive and unique combination of parameters that serve as an Origin Fingerprint. 

The benefit of conducting inherent product testing to verify authenticity in supply chains is that it is entirely independent of paperwork or passive traceability methods like barcodes, QR codes, applied tracers, or blockchain. A product can be collected and tested from the supply chain without having to interrupt production or add extra steps to the process.

3. How resilient is Oritain’s methodology against tampering and fraud?

Because Oritain’s Origin Fingerprint is driven by environmental and climate factors that only Mother Nature can apply, a unique Origin Fingerprint cannot be synthesized or recreated. Oritain investigates and validates the common chemical and manufacturing processes implemented in garment and textile production – including, but not limited to, bleaching, dyeing, sizing, and mercerization. Our approach ensures that the Origin Fingerprint is detectable through each stage of the production cycle, providing assurance of authenticity at each step.


4. What is the Oritain Trust Mark and what does it means for buyers?

The Oritain Trust Mark is more than just a seal of approval – it is a symbol of trust and assurance for both brands and consumers. Our clients see this as a strong promise of ethical sourcing practices and a guarantee of authenticity for the products they purchase. For buyers, it is a sign that the products they buy are from where they claim to be and have not been tampered with or subjected to any fraudulent activities. 

A key thing to note is that we do not test every single product – we test production lots/batches to assess authenticity or risk potential. This allows for a more efficient and cost-effective method of making sure that products are genuine and have not been compromised in any way.


5. Can Oritain’s testing method be used in court?

Absolutely. Oritain’s testing is based on widely published methods in forensic chemistry and incorporates a robust data baseline obtained from primary sources with the highest standard of chain of custody. Thus, our technology can be used as admissible evidence in a court of law. In the US, this specifically means that our testing meets the Daubert Standard.

If you have any more questions about our testing method, please contact us. We would be happy to answer them for you!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this document does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Instead, all information presented here is for general informational purposes only. Counsel should be consulted with respect to any particular legal situation.

Kate Jones

Dr. Kate Jones

Dr. Kate Jones is the Senior Science Advisor for Oritain. Over the last eight years at Oritain, Kate has driven the development of the Oritain product and science delivery of cotton, wool, mohair, and cashmere verification programs.