How can AI help sportswear brands to source cleaner materials faster?

How can AI help sportswear brands to source cleaner materials faster?

In 2022, the size of the global sportswear market amounted to approximately $319.4 billion. This figure is forecast to rise to over $450 billion by 2028. At the same time, the athletic wear industry is undergoing a profound transformation. No longer confined to synthetic and resource-intensive materials, athletic wear is beginning to embrace sustainability as a core principle.

From Sourcing to Sport: challenges in cleaner production

Making low-carbon materials a mainstay in athletic wear is indeed not a walk in the park, despite the increasing willingness of the industry to change. The production involves overcoming a series of following challenges:

Transparency and certifications

With growing demand for eco-conscious products, it is not unusual to find suppliers and brands trying to game the system. They want to enjoy the privilege and positive outlook that comes with being eco-conscious without putting in the hard work. These deceptive practices erode consumer trust and undermine genuine sustainability efforts within the industry.

Balancing performance with sustainability

Modern athletes demand gear that enhances performance while also increasingly preferring environmentally responsible products. Merging these two often contradictory needs is a tightrope walk. Athletic wear manufacturers face the challenge of developing innovative materials and production processes that boost athletic performance and reduce their carbon footprint.

It is possible to strike a balance between performance and sustainability - New Balance 574 is made with leftover materials (Source)It is possible to strike a balance between performance and sustainability - New Balance 574 is made with leftover materials (Source)

Cost implications and manufacturing complexities

One of the foremost issues is scaling up production while maintaining quality and cost-efficiency. Although eco-friendly, many clean materials and manufacturing processes may be more resource-intensive or expensive in the early stages of adoption. Companies, more often than not, must invest in research, development, and infrastructure to ensure that low-carbon options are readily available and competitive in the market.

Supply chain modifications

Shifting to clean materials can necessitate a complete overhaul of existing supply chains, introducing potential risks and uncertainties. This transformation often entails identifying new suppliers who can reliably provide eco-friendly materials at scale and with consistent quality. These changes may disrupt established relationships and require thorough vetting of suppliers to ensure they meet sustainability standards and ethical practices.

Shifting to clean materials can necessitate a complete overhaul of existing supply chains (Source: Unsplash)Shifting to clean materials can necessitate a complete overhaul of existing supply chains (Source: Unsplash)

How AI can help sportswear brands source cleaner materials?

The problems stated above are multidimensional and require an equally multidimensional solution. The solution should be able to effectively navigate the complexities of sustainability in sportswear by addressing various aspects concurrently. This is where technologies such as AI can come into view and reinvent the rules of the game.

Transparency in certifications and labels

  • Clear insight into supplier practices: With an AI-driven platform such as, brands can access data on a supplier's certifications and labels. This ensures that the materials procured align with a brand's sustainability goals and promises, allowing swift and accurate assessment of a supplier's eco-credentials, and helping brands make informed decisions about their sourcing partners.
  • Eliminating Greenwashing: using AI and human expert insights, tocco can verify the authenticity of claims, helping brands avoid suppliers that might exaggerate or falsely represent their sustainability credentials. This not only protects brands from potential greenwashing but also strengthens the integrity of the entire supply chain.

Streamlining the supply chain

  • Efficient communication: Anyone familiar with how supply chains work knows the importance of efficient communication. tocco’s marketplace provides tools that enhance direct communication between brands and suppliers. Features such as automated messaging and alerts can drastically cut down response times.
  • Simplified negotiations: Negotiation tools backed by AI and human agents of tocco can guide brands, ensuring they get the best deals without compromising on the sustainability or quality of materials. This data-driven approach empowers brands to negotiate from a position of strength, securing favorable terms while staying aligned with their sustainability goals.


As sportswear brands confront the multifaceted challenges of sustainable production, the solution might lie in embracing technology. At tocco, there is a concerted effort to bridge the gap between low-carbon material suppliers and brands in need of the materials.

The days of not knowing where to look for low-carbon materials are long gone. tocco is your one-stop shop for connecting with the eco-conscious suppliers you’ve been looking for. The future of sustainable sportswear production is brighter and more efficient, thanks to the power of AI.

💡 Check out our AI-integrated marketplace and start buying clean materials from the best suppliers here


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Statista. (2023, August 30). Size of the global activewear market 2021 to 2028.

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Upcycled materials for a circular economy in Europe? | tocco. (n.d.).

Written by Anh N. on 18/09/2023

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