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The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary, which offered a great opportunity to reflect upon our journey and the progress the SAC has achieved over the past decade in close partnership with its members. I wanted to share my own thoughts and reflections on the past ten years and give you some insight into what comes next. As we all know, our work is far from done — in a lot of ways, it’s just beginning.
Ten years ago, the SAC set out on a path to develop a standardized set of tools to measure the apparel industry’s sustainability impacts. I’m proud to report our founding mission has been achieved. Over the past decade, we have developed the industry’s most comprehensive suite of tools for the standardized measurement of value chain sustainability, the Higg Index, to measure social and environmental performance and help drive collective action at scale. Developed in collaboration with our members, and employed throughout the decade as working tools achieving measurable sustainability goals, the Higg Index stands today as the leading example of end-to-end sustainability measurement index, for any industry. These tools have matured into comprehensive, robust offerings ready to scale and form a template for our industry’s pursuit of impact improvements. Nonetheless, they will continue to evolve, as science improves and our understanding of the industry’s challenges deepen, allowing us to support our members and the industry, now and for years to come.
The SAC has helped to galvanize remarkable progress and momentum throughout the global apparel industry over the past 10 years, thanks to the vision, determination and collaboration of our 250+ members, ecosystem partners, and staff. I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me personally to be part of this work, surrounded by such a dedicated group of smart, passionate people. Yet it’s clear that there is so much more work to be done. Given the scope of the challenges we face, we must accelerate our sustainability commitments and double down on our collaborative efforts to tackle systemic issues across the global value chain.
Looking ahead to this new year and decade of action, the SAC has set forth an ambitious new strategic plan with the mission to transform business for exponential impact. We’ll be working with our members to strengthen industry accountability for things like reducing sector wide emissions by almost half by 2030 and promoting safe and fair working conditions across the global value chain. Although challenging, this work is critical. And when I think about the progress we’ve made over the past decade, I’m confident that achieving our mission is possible. I can speak for myself, my team and our members when I say we’re up for the task.
This new plan acknowledges that we need to aggressively accelerate our work if we are going to solve systemic problems as a global community. We will do this through equal partnership and engaging all stakeholders across the value chain, because we can only solve these problems together.
There are four pillars in our new strategic plan:
- Collective Action: As we work toward transforming business for exponential impact, the SAC, Higg, and Aii each have specific roles to play. The SAC will focus on bringing our community together and transforming business through collaboration and partnership.
- Integrated Tools: As the Higg Index tools evolve, we want to ensure that they are integrated with each other so that the entire suite can deliver holistic business intelligence and value. Tool integration will support tool adoption among our members, as will robust training and education provided by the SAC team.
- Transparency: In the near future, we will enable our members to communicate their organizational and product level sustainability performance to their business partners, stakeholders, and consumers with a framework for verification and Higg Index performance communication.
- Sustainability Leadership: We will accelerate action through deeper collaborations, membership requirements, policy engagement, and expansion of our work across the sector. In addition, we plan to seek out and implement strategic partnerships that allow us to scale our efforts with mutual benefit and engage in advocacy to align policy efforts towards a green recovery.
Our new strategic plan contains all of the key ingredients necessary to catalyze our organization and our industry towards a more sustainable future for people and the planet. Achieving this vision will take all of us, working together and united around this common purpose.
The SAC’s new strategic plan is bold, ambitious and flexible, acknowledging that new and emerging insights and issues across our industry will require our organization to be agile in how we prioritize our work and focus our attention on continual progress towards our goals. We’re keeping our eyes and ears open as issues like circularity, biodiversity and transparency become increasingly important in these conversations. Our staff and members will need to become more nimble in responding to these topics through methodology development, member involvement, stakeholder engagement, and policy conversations.
And as we look to the future, it’s vital that we account for the continued impact of the COVID-19 crisis across every aspect of the supply chain. The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for accountable and transparent industry action on environmental impact and social justice. We recognize that sustainability is a journey, but it’s become increasingly important for companies to embed and operationalize sustainability into every aspect of their business.
This work matters more than ever — and I encourage everyone in our industry to join us in this important undertaking. If you’re interested in becoming a member of the SAC, please visit: https://apparelcoalition.org/join-us/