The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the apparel, footwear and home textile industry’s foremost alliance for sustainable production. The Coalition’s main focus is on building the Higg Index, a standardised supply chain measurement tool for all industry participants to understand the environmental and social and labour impacts of making and selling their products and services. SAC chief executive officer Jason Kibbey speaks to Fibre2Fashion about the recent developments.
Please tell us about your journey since the initiation of Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) was founded by Patagonia and Walmart. Since the beginning, it has been working towards developing an apparel and footwear industry that does not harm the environment unnecessarily. Today, SAC has close to 200 members including brands, retailers, manufacturers, raw material providers, auditing firms, government, non-government institutions, academicians and various other stakeholders. Our main product is the tool called Higg Index which comprises modules designed for various segments of the industry. We have tools for brands, products and facilities. Recently, we released a product footprinting tool. We have different modules for social and environmental aspects that assess various policies and impacts of the facilities and brands. We have also introduced a design and development module so that the apparel designers will understand the impact of the products that they are making.
You recently introduced the new Higg Index module. How is it helping the sustainability initiative?
It has impacted at different levels and as far as various brands are concerned they have begun incorporating it into their sustainability practices. It helps them understand the sustainability practices and policy changes in improving transportation management and product design. At the facilities, it is for the first time that they have incorporated environmental assessment. As of now, it will be too early to say anything as most of the assessment tools were introduced only two years back.
How does participation in Higg Index assessments help companies to drive greater innovation in sustainability?
Factories are rewarded for sustainable innovation. SAC members can generate scores with their performance. These scores serve as a powerful incentive to achieve greater results, financial as well as non-financial, and raise the sustainability bar. We encourage our members to work transparently. We are also working on developing a system where the assessments will be made public and customers will have the liberty to choose companies they want to support based on their sustainability performance.
SAC includes brands, retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, and academicians, etc, as its members. How are they contributing in the sustainability chain?
Each brand has different sustainability programmes and goals. Some retailers are also investing in improving their processing and significance in the environment, others are focusing on product betterment. Academicians are also playing a major role by teaching young designers and apparel managers the benefits of incorporating sustainability in their work.
How will collaboration with non-government organisations support sustainability?
Non-government institutions play a crucial role in promoting sustainability by analysing the techniques of collecting credible information to develop better sustainable tools.
What are the challenges that you face while approaching companies for memberships?
Nowadays, companies are working on strategies in order to implement sustainability programme across their entire supply chain. SAC helps to get started with a sustainable programme.
With regards to environment, what are the biggest challenges faced by the textiles sector?
The textiles sector is affected by numerous problems such as greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, chemical emission and waste among others. We believe in coming out with a holistic solution to address these challenges.
How is cross-industry partnership addressing sustainability needs?
The textiles industry works at a broader level. It is not possible for any segment to fight against any challenge or come up with a solution at an individual level. We have to work together at a larger scale and try to identify and address the problems affecting the entire value chain.
With more than 100 members in SLCP, what are your future plans for the project?
We aim to develop a transparent footprinting tool that will enable companies to share their scores with all stakeholders including the consumers. Further, we are working on standardising labour assessment tools and improve company’s score and performance.