A group of leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, manufacturers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic experts, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today launched the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Coalition will work on a collaborative approach to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products sold around the world by:
- Leading the industry toward a shared vision of sustainability built on an industry-wide index for measuring and evaluating apparel and footwear product sustainability;
- Spotlighting promising technological innovations; and
- Identifying opportunities for improving current social and environmental practices throughout the supply chain by collaborating to establish consistent expectations for brands, retailers, and manufacturers.
The goal of the Coalition is to lead the industry toward a shared vision of sustainability built on an industry-wide index for businesses to use to measure and evaluate apparel and footwear product sustainability performance. The tools will be developed with involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, and the metrics will be fully transparent to encourage broad adoption of the index globally. To accomplish this, the Coalition will draw on the work of different efforts to measure and track apparel sustainability including the Outdoor Industry Association “Eco Index” and Nike’s “Environmental Apparel Design” tools. The group has been working together informally since early 2010, and will begin beta-testing the initial version of an apparel and footwear sustainability index in 2011.
Founding members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition are based in North America, Asia, Europe and the U.K. Retailers including Gap Inc, H&M, JC Penney, Marks & Spencer, Nordstrom, Patagonia, REI, Target, Timberland and Walmart have joined Esprit, Esquel, Adidas, Arvind Mills, C&A, Duke University, Environmental Defense Fund, Hanes Brands, Intradeco, Lenzing, Levi Strauss & Co., Li & Fung, Mountain Equipment Co-op, New Balance, Nike, Otto Group, Outdoor Industry Association, Pentland Brands, TAL Apparel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Verité and VF Corp.
“The largest and most influential corporations in apparel and footwear together with leading environmental and social organizations have voluntarily engaged in this collective effort because they recognize the opportunity to get in front of the growing need to measure and manage the environmental and social impacts of their products,” said Rick Ridgeway, Coalition Chair and Vice President of Environmental Programs, Patagonia. “More importantly, they recognize the threat to the planet and its inhabitants by continuing the model of ‘business as usual.’”
Each of the Coalition’s participating companies and organizations see an opportunity to advance their own sustainability goals by collaborating to create more uniform, broadly defined tools for measuring sustainability, and for collective actions to drive innovations in products and manufacturing that will benefit the entire apparel industry and consumers.
This is an exciting opportunity for retailers to use their Private Brands to create a leadership position and leverage their sustainability goals as brand assets.