The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is a group of companies, organizations and individuals representing the American apparel sector. Encompassing more than thirty brands of shoes and clothing, it brings together retailers, manufactures, NGOs, academic experts, and the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA with one aim: to reduce the social and environmental impact of these products around the world.
The Coalition has developed a common measure of impact, the Sustainable Apparel Index, which is based on two previous indices: the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) Eco Index and Nike’s Environmental Design Tool. The OIA index comprises directives and recommendations for companies; materials indicators that span a product’s full lifetime; and metrics on resources consumption, waste generation, and emissions. Nike’s initiative, developed over 7 years and implying an investment of $6 million, is available in a public version and in an in-house version which the company uses to improve decision-making for clothing design. For the Sustainable Apparel Index, the OIA provides a measurement framework for outdoor equipment, whereas Nike’s tool offers metrics and measurements for broad range of clothing materials.
A pilot version of the Sustainable Apparel Index (V1 Apparel Index) is being tested and adjusted. For the time being, it has been designed for internal use by member companies, for whom it will provide savings as well as reduced social and environmental impact, improved risk management, a better reputation, and the chance to adapt their business ahead of future regulations.
The Coalition was born of a collaboration between Patagonia and Walmart to create an environmental impact index based on the OIA’s work. The first twelve members began meeting informally in 2010. There are currently more than thirty members, including Adidas, C&A, Gap, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Marks & Spencer, New Balance, Nike, Patagonia, Timberland and Walmart.
Members that operate for profit pay an annual quota. Starting in 2012, the Coalition will open its doors to new members without an invitation. In order to support constant upgrading of the Coalition’s indices and other work, corporate members will probably end up paying a tiered licensing fee for access to its services.