The Sustainable Apparel Coalition sets ten-year targets for its 120+ member brands.
Retail powerhouses Walmart and Patagonia created the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) in 2011 to standardise measurable goals in apparel, footwear, and textile production. This month, the SAC released a report announcing a new goal. It wants to standardise communication tools in these industries through a four-pronged plan focusing on collective action, integrated tools, transparency, and sustainability leadership. More than 120 brands are part of the Coalition.
The SAC’s key achievement in the past decade has been the development and adoption of the Higg Index. This suite of tools measures the environmental and labour impact of production processes. This data enables inefficiencies and poor practice to be addressed.
As H&M Head of Sustainability Pascal Brun explained in the SAC 2021 report, “We believe that the Higg Index is the most robust and holistic sustainability assessment in the industry, developed together with an unprecedented group of stakeholders including brands, retailers, manufacturers, academia, NGOs, and many more.”
Now, SAC wants to increase industry transparency and insight to accelerate collective sustainability targets.
One key goal is shifting focus to champion workers’ rights, safety, and livelihoods by 2025. Another is for all SAC members to achieve a 45% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030. However, the SAC also wants Higg Index tools fully operational for all members and providing performance evaluations against their goals by 2025. Whether a brand, retailer, or manufacturer, all SAC members must provide consumers with verifiable sustainable performance ratings by 2025.
Spreading the Word
Evidently, the involvement of retail giants has been key in terms of policy development in the past decade. In 2012, Nike donated the Nike Materials Sustainability Index to the SAC, which then became one of the signature tools in the Higg suite. Furthermore, Gap and Target were instrumental in the creation of the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii). Serving hundreds of brands and retailers globally, the Higg index tools allow GoreTEX to evaluate and compare material footprints across the industry. In this way, the company can evaluate the sustainability credentials of 85% of its products. Significantly, it can also communicate this information to its consumers.
According to Amina Razvi, SAC’s executive director, big brands will also be crucial to SAC’s future success.
“We plan to seek out and implement strategic partnerships that allow us to scale our efforts with mutual benefit and engage in advocacy to align policy efforts towards a green recovery,” she explains, “The SAC demonstrates industry leadership, collaboration, and action towards a more sustainable and inclusive future across multiple sectors by 2025.”
The SAC has grown from 19 members in 2009 to 255 members in 2020. In fact, despite the global pandemic 58 new organisations joined in 2020. With a combined turnover of $845 billion, 21,485 organisations in 119 countries use the Higg Index. With companies such as Levi Strauss, Amazon and Timberland onboard, Razvi believes the message is clear.
“Worldwide, consumers and investors are prioritising companies that prioritise sustainability.”
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