Sustainable Apparel Coalition launched & Index to “score” environmental impact of clothes

A group of apparel and footwear brands and manufacturers (e.g. Patagonia, Nike, Duke Univeryity, Li&Fung, C&A, H&M, Adidas, Walmart), academics and the US EPA today launched the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which intends to collaborate on reducing social and environmental impacts of clothing production. The SAC 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 index has the following structure and is still in development:

The New York Times today focuses on the database of the coalition. It ought to comprise of “the environmental impact of every manufacturer, component and process in apparel production, with the aim of using that information to eventually give every garment a sustainability score”. According to the NYT the scores of the database shall be assigned to all players throughought the supply chain of a garment: “… cotton growers, synthetic fabric makers, dye suppliers, textile mill owners, as well as packagers, shippers, retailers and consumers — based on a variety of social and environmental measures like water and land use, energy efficiency, waste production, chemical use, greenhouse gases and labor practices.”

Companies can use the database to buy materials according to the environmental score and a good label could direct customers towards the environmentally friendly products: “A clothing company designer could then use the tool to select materials and suppliers, computing an overall sustainability score based on industry standards. If the score exceeds the company’s own sustainability goals — or if competitive pressures arising from a consumer label are compelling the company to bring scores down — designers could revise their choices with the tool.”

This indeed sounds like a good idea. However, a few questions remain:

  • Who guarantees or monitors the validity of the database in the complex supply chains?  Shouldn’t governments or stakeholders be invovled here for enhanced credibility?
  • Why don’t governments develop a label for garments that obliges manufacturers to label the environmental and social impact of the goods they sell – similar to the EU efficiency label? (see picture)

One Comment on “Sustainable Apparel Coalition launched & Index to “score” environmental impact of clothes”

  1. Rachael says:

    Anti-Slavery International is working on a campaign to encourage retailers to stop using cotton of Uzbek origin where child slavery is used to harvest the cotton,and to pressure the EU into doing something about it!

    Here’s the link to some of the retailers responses which may be of interest:

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