Apparel Corporations Unite to Reduce Environmental Impact

Apparel Corporations Unite to Reduce Environmental Impact


A recent article by Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal reported on a new rating tool setup by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). SAC describes themselves as, “An industry-wide group of over 60 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, nonprofits, and NGOs working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world.” The new rating tool is known as the Higgs Index which will be able to allow the consumer to choose their apparel according to how sustainable and environmentally friendly the company is that produces it. This is a similar model to how the food industry is currently being rated, particularly in New York City. Here, letter scores (A-C) are posted on restaurant windows to alert the consumer of their compliance with required health codes. In addition, ingredient and production information continues throughout the industry.

 The Higgs Index

This index allows brands, chemical companies and related factories the chance to voluntarily self-report information regarding how the specific fabrics, pattern-making procedures, various packaging, worldwide shipping and even the waste management they use measure on an environmental impact scale. It is expected that this information will be available to consumers through clothing tags, labels and/or website postings. By disclosing an all around high score of sustainability on the Higgs Index, there is the hope that it will not only benefit the environment but it may also affect the bottom line. Organic food production has had a drastic rise in sales over the years and the Higgs Index will most likely be no different.

Higgs Scoring

The Higgs scoring is a complex list of standards and practices that examines the full spectrum of production from raw material all the way to the amount of refuse it creates (as well as how that refuse affects the environment). For instance, Spandex earns the lowest rating due to its high chemical usage during production where polyester is surprisingly sustainable as a result of its high recycle-ability. Bamboo fabric also rates poorly due to its high chemical production needs and cotton, linen and wool all have low ratings as a result of land, water and also chemically un-eco-friendly practices. The Higgs scoring is far from perfect and needs some fine tuning but it is an excellent start for full disclosure.

Who’s on Board?

The apparel industry was astounded at the first pairing that began SAC. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and John Fleming, chief merchandising officer of Wal-Mart started the organization raising eyebrows throughout the industry. It was an unlikely meeting of minds that has since influenced members such as Target, Nike, Gap, Timberland, Adidas, Kohl’s, H&M and Nordstrom. In addition, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are also involved.

The simple act of these corporations coming together in this way is a hopeful sign. Maybe, by taking responsibility, they can set a precedent that the rest of the world just may follow.


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