Elisabeth von Reitzenstein, SAC Senior Director of Public Affairs, was a key speaker in a critical discussion on due diligence at the AAFA Traceability & Sustainability Conference on July 26th in Boston, MA. Hosted by the AAFA, the panel was moderated by Joe Walkuski of Texbase and also included Susanne Gebauer, Senior Assessment & Quality Manager at the Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP), Linda Kromjong, President of amfori, and Avedis Seferian, President and CEO of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production. The talk centered around critical efforts of businesses in the apparel and footwear industry to achieve sustainability goals while staying competitive in an ever-changing market. 

As von Reitzenstein shared, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition brings together nearly 50% of the global apparel and footwear supply chains — from global brands and retailers to manufacturers, NGOs, academics, and industry associations — in a pre-competitive space to collaborate for impact on its most urgent and systemic challenges. The SAC’s use of groundbreaking tools like the Higg Index helps foster collaborative partnerships and drive change. 

At the SAC, von Reitzenstein leads global activities in public affairs, policy, and advocacy to execute on the mission to transform business for exponential impact — and create a more sustainable, equitable, and just world for all. Together with the other panelists, she outlined how SAC works together with other organizations to ensure that the industry can and will comply with emerging regulations while helping to avoid the duplications of efforts. 

“In order to effectively support our members, we cannot just focus on one piece of legislation but must analyze several in relation to the Higg Index tools,” von Reitzenstein said. She outlined how the Higg tools align with best industry practice standards, connecting the dots between how the Higg Facility Social & Labour Module (FSLM) integrates with the Social and Labor Convergence Program (SLCP), as well as how a  major update to the Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM) aligns with best-in-class industry standards. “Our Higg Index tools don’t just provide a standardized measurement of value chain sustainability, but also support companies with relevant, compliant disclosure,” she said.

The panel discussed European due diligence legislation including the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), German Due Diligence Act, and the EU Forced Labour Regulation — all of which were deemed promising for the global sustainability agenda as disclosures are increasingly considered necessary to responsible corporate behavior.

As due diligence in the EU evolves, von Reitzenstein said, the SAC continues to prioritize mapping and analysis in order to build a broad picture of the landscape, and remains committed to transparently sharing its findings. This analysis feeds into the development of tools that support SAC members as they navigate and meet new and evolving regulations. 

The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of working together. As von Reitzenstein put it: “Cooperation with other stakeholders is key. We’re already doing a lot but can always do more — we might not be at the beginning but we are also not at the end of that journey.”