Traceability: All roads lead to Garda

Expo Riva Schuch: Traceability is the only way to achieve lasting sustainability

Only by creating common ground for a traceability system shared by the entire footwear and leather goods sector will it be possible for production companies along the entire supply chain to follow a serious and comparable path towards sustainability that will help buyers and consumers assess their purchases. The next edition of Expo Riva Garda will be held from 14 to 17 January in Riva del Garda.

Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags proposes to help the industry by exercising its “cultural” influence and making available its international network. Its objective is to ensure that industry professionals exploring traceability-related issues and players in the production chain can agree on shared parameters and strategies that can guide them step-by-step towards products that are increasingly more attentive to the state of the planet and people’s social and economic well-being.

 “The terms “sustainability” and “traceability” are often used interchangeably, but they are not synonyms. While they exist in close proximity, I consider traceability to be a prerequisite for a sensible and lasting path towards sustainability for footwear and leather goods companies”. This is the view of Enrico Cietta, CEO of Diomedea and Chairman of the Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags Scientific Committee. For over 20 years, Enrico has been an economist working in research and strategic consulting in the fashion and creative industries.


Sustainability presents two problems above all else. The first: no company is sustainable in every single respect. As it has been interpreted to date, sustainability involves an issue-based approach (whether this be the use of water, energy, chemicals, recycling, labour policies, etc.). Enrico Cietta explains: “Clearly, only an approach such as this is possible at the initial stage of a sector’s transformation, but it is not applicable at a mature stage, because it has several obvious limitations. A segmented approach does not allow costs to be optimised or shared with other industry operators; it therefore generates additional organisational and financial burdens that cannot be absorbed”.

The second problem of sustainability concerns excessive certification. In recent years, we have seen a real uncontrolled proliferation of certification bodies and systems. “This phenomenon also causes fragmentation and confusion, making it almost impossible for production companies to adapt to the individual and varied demands that each label can make”, Enrico points out.

The lack of a pathway shared by the entire international fashion industry and the absence of common standards means that the whole value chain is forced to make investments and develop strategies that do not promote the growth of sustainable solutions. Rather, they increase expenses and organisational chaos, and mean that companies cannot present themselves to buyers or consumers with clear, unambiguous and therefore comparable communication.


In order to overcome this impasse, Enrico Cietta, in agreement with the Expo Riva Schuh Scientific Committee, suggests focusing on traceability, and interpreting the many issues related to sustainability with an unambiguous and transparent traceability system as the basis. This system would gradually implement key parameters that would allow all companies in the international fashion sector to embark on a step-by-step journey towards increasingly sustainable collections, without fear of surprises or unexpected demands. Buyers and consumers could also refer to this system, to form a clear idea of how sustainable each product is.

This system would not only imply a cost for companies; it would provide them with clear data that could be analysed to optimise processes.

“Traceability is the essential approach to enable a broad and all-encompassing focus on the topic of sustainability. What do we mean by traceability? An information system linked to the value chain that collects predetermined and regulated data”.

Until now, we have been thinking more in terms of best practices, identified by the marketing teams of each individual company and not related to the needs of the sector or the supply chain as a whole. Adopting a shared traceability system would help the industry make an evolutionary leap: “We need to move from a company-specific to an industry-specific approach. The aim is not so much to make the industry sustainable by making many companies sustainable, but to imagine and introduce a sustainable industrial system that allows companies to become part of it”.

A concrete example: if a shoe is made up of around 60 materials, manufactured by almost as many companies, and for each part I have to determine how sustainable it is, so as to assign a clear and transparent sustainability passport to each finished product, it is absurd to imagine that such a challenge would not be met on the basis of an unambiguous approach shared by the entire sector. Harmonizing different certifications and non-homogeneous data each time would be inconclusive as well as costly.


Through the work of the Scientific Committee, the Riva del Garda trade show is acting as a sounding board for this more mature idea of sustainability and promoting a traceable supply chain. Its intention is not to highlight the good practices of individual companies, but to work towards a system shared by the industry and thus provide a guideline for all companies.

“Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags intends to identify a number of technical partners and a select group of companies. This working team will be asked to determine the traceability principles that could transparently identify each company’s level of sustainability”, anticipates Enrico Cietta.

Why should a trade show deal with such issues? “Because it is perhaps the only independent entity capable of bringing together the entire sector at international level. As opposed to individual entrepreneurs or associations, whether national or supranational, it has considerable competitive leverage: as a platform for promotion, communication and business, it is a key player in the market. When a trade show such as Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags is committed to providing buyers with clear and comparable information on the sustainability level of companies and collections, it sends a strong signal to the entire industry, which will be increasingly incentivised to invest in sustainability. The trade show becomes an instrument of cultural dissemination, making sustainability a powerful competitive weapon”.

The strategy devised by Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags does not envisage the event becoming a certifying body or the developer of a platform for traceability, but rather aims to bring together and establish a dialogue between those who do this for a living and sector companies. Thus building a shared path that, through the traceability tool, will lead to the sustainability of the entire footwear and leather goods industry.

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