Earlier this month, the IPCC Report confirmed once again the stark reality of what we already know: the climate crisis is real, it’s man-made, and it’s alarming. Though the natural reaction to the report’s findings might be topanic, I’d like to offer an alternative way of looking at it: the report is dire only if we don’t do anything. Instead, how can we look at these findings as an opportunity to accelerate our action and move forward with existing, proven solutions that we know will help us to address this crisis.
The truth is, the IPCC report doesn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for decades. The urgency is crystal clear, and more and more, we are seeing the effects of the climate crisis unfolding in real-time as raging wildfires, massive flooding and forceful typhoons have hit cities across the globe since the beginning of the year. I invite us all to transform that urgency into an opportunity to recast our vision for the future, and ask ourselves:
“What would happen if we actually do something?”
At the SAC, we believe that:
- Collective action is the key to scaling proven solutions. Partnership is the new leadership and by partnering with others from a pre-competitive space, we can allow rapid industry innovation to take place through the alignment of goals, a common language/approach, and by scaling existing, proven solutions that will result in supply chain transformation. Over the past ten years, we’ve done just that by bringing the industry together to develop and align on tools that help us move our industry forward.
- You can’t manage what you don’t measure. In order to meet science-based targets, you need to know your impact, and you need credible data to track it and measure your progress. Our Higg Index tools give you access to the data you need so you can make informed decisions.
At the SAC, Collective Action is one four pillars of our strategic plan. We have recently formed a formal alliance with Textile Exchange, ZDHC, Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) in order to drive new efficiencies for the industry. We’re achieving this by connecting our complementary programs and tools, partnering on strategic fundraising, scaling global implementation, and sharing resources in order to reduce infrastructure costs.
Within the Coalition, one way our members leverage collective action is through the formation of working groups and informal roundtable discussions that allow them to leverage a ‘brain trust’ among industry players and peers to not only develop and evolve our tools, but to share best practices on how these tools can be scaled across the value chain. These volunteer groups allow for space to be created among a trusted community to solve problems together towards shared industry goals.
As a result of this engagement, we create greater alignment between all actors across the value chain who play a role in transforming our industry, from brands and manufacturers to NGOs and service providers. When member companies come together to align on common tools and metrics for measuring the environmental and social impacts of their facilities, then manufacturers benefit from a streamlined process and common tools that allow them to meet their customer’s needs. When brands (who are using the same manufacturer) are able to work together from a pre-competitive space, they can partner with their facilities to more efficiently reduce impact by collaborating on solutions regarding the reduction of energy, water, and chemical use.
Instead of having multiple audits and differing processes or requests, having brands align on the use of our Higg Facility Tools makes it easier for manufacturers to partner with brands and deliver on improvements. As one of our manufacturer members, Shelby Arnold of Elevate Textiles, recently shared, “The [Higg Tools] brought us an improved level of environmental transparency to our brand customers. With these industry-standardized tools, such as the Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM) and the Higg Facility & Social Labor Module (Higg FSLM), our brand customers can gather information to support their own goals and compare suppliers when they are collecting the results.”
Furthermore, investing in the technology and innovation that it will require to shift the supply chain away from fossil fuels will cost billions of dollars. Not one brand can do it alone. Instead, strategic partnerships made between a collective of brands and/or between brand and manufacturer as well as with other NGOs and Investors can help speed up the process.Through shared investments, new technologies and innovations can be scaled much more rapidly.
In addition to partnerships that scale supply chain improvements, 22% of current SAC member companies have set or committed to science-based targets. Through the adoption of our Higg Index tools, SAC members are able to measure their impact through science-based metrics and trustworthy, verified data.
As an example, one of our members, Williams-Sonoma, uses our Higg FEM tools to further refine their Scope 3 data and set a baseline for environmental data with their suppliers. They are using data from the Higg FEM to inform their environmental compliance program, which helps to ensure that their facilities have an environmental management system in place. Through the tool, it enables opportunities for them to work with their suppliers on creating and tracking targets over time.
Another one of our members, PVH Corp., has committed to driving a 30% reduction in its global supply chain (Scope 3) emissions by 2030. To help them achieve their Scope 3 targets, they are also using the Higg FEM to work with their suppliers in reducing GHG emissions.
Finally, one of our founding members, VF Corporation, uses our Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) tool to meet their commitment of having 100% of their top nine materials (which account for approximately 90% of their materials-related carbon emissions) originate from regenerative, renewable, or recycled sources by 2030. Through the use of the Higg MSI, VF Corporation can assess their material choices to identify the greatest opportunities for environmental impact reduction, and also better understand how it contributes to their larger science-based targets.
These examples of the work and dedication our members at the SAC are embarking on show us what is possible, and how best practices and existing tools can unlock the potential for massive impact reduction if used at scale. Though the IPCC Report gives us a grim reality check, I also want to offer up another reality that the examples above prove: that change is happening now through leading companies who are leveraging existing tools and scaling them across their value chain. Unfortunately, this change is not happening at the rate or scale that it needs to. We are at an inflection point, and this gives us the opportunity to work together on what really matters: transforming our industry to give more than it takes to the planet and its people.
It will take commitment, leadership, and above all, partnership. We have one planet, and one chance.
I invite you to join us at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and be a part of a collective movement to accelerate social and environmental justice to create a sustainable future for generations to come.