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New Apparel Institute Aims to Scale Sustainable Solutions for Fashion Industry Impacts

Image Credit: Christopher Payne/WIRED

The launch of a new initiative designed to spur collective action around sustainability in the apparel and footwear industry is providing brands and manufacturers with the knowledge and resources necessary to select, fund and accelerate projects that can improve upon the sector's problematic environmental impacts.

Established by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Target, PVH Corp., Gap Inc. and HSBC Holdings plc, amongst others, the Apparel Impact Institute (AII) will help key players across the value chain overcome the challenges and barriers that prevent pilot projects designed to reduce the sector’s social and environmental impacts from operating at the scale needed to drive positive outcomes. AII will identify promising projects that are working in limited geography or are targeting a narrow problem yet show potential for broader application. By connecting them with the appropriate resources, AII will help them scale more quickly.

“Through the Higg Index, we’ve seen incredible industry collaboration when it comes to standardizing sustainability measurements,” said Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. “It’s critical that we also take collective action to put that data to work. The Apparel Impact Institute allows us to act jointly on scaling practices that have a positive impact on people, planet and the whole industry, while simultaneously helping brands and manufacturers improve their Higg Index scores.”

The AII will focus on mill improvement as its first project, one of the most environmentally impactful stages of clothing production. The Initiative will specifically target the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Clean by Design program, which reduces energy, water and chemical use to scale mill improvement across the industry and across geographies. Later this year, the AII will focus on how to support and expand mill improvement initiatives globally.

Future projects will include closed-loop recycling and worker well-being and will expand to include additional brands and manufacturers.

“IDH strongly believes that the time has come for the apparel sector to join forces to have an impact at scale,” said Ted van der Put, Executive Representative of IDH. “By working as a sector initiative with a wide representation of leaders in the apparel sector, and by aligning with existing initiatives, we can accelerate implementation, and avoid fragmentation and duplication of similar initiatives. This will scale the impact on Sustainable Development Goals related to environmental and social conditions.”

The AII came together using seed funding from the IDH and Target, and with additional financial support from PVH Corp., Gap Inc. and HSBC Holdings plc. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is providing industry support and access to Higg Index data. The parties have engaged San Francisco management consultancy Schaffer&Combs for project management support of the Apparel Impact Institute's early stage activities.

“At Target, we know that our decisions have the potential to impact millions of people around the globe, from the people who create our products to the families they support and the communities where they live, and we’re committed to leveraging Target’s scale for good,” said Ivanka Mamic, Senior Director of Responsible Sourcing at Target. “Industry collaboration is vital to driving change and ensuring a sustainable apparel industry. We support the Apparel Impact Institute’s analytical approach to collaboration and think it will provide a solid foundation for tracking progress and measuring outcomes, which will help propel the apparel industry forward.”


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]