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Newly Formed Apparel Impact Institute to Help Lessen Clothing’s Impact

Industry leaders are coming together to minimize the carbon footprint of apparel products and promote a more circular fashion future.

On Tuesday, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Gap Inc., PVH Corp., Target, HSBC Holdings plc and other parties launched the Apparel Impact Institute (AII)—a new collective effort which will see brands and manufacturers working together to select, fund and scale projects that support garment and footwear sustainability worldwide.

Even though environmental awareness is on the rise in the apparel industry, AII said most sustainability pilot projects are operating at a scale that doesn’t measure up to the environmental and social outcome consumers are expecting. The AII will take notice of promising projects that are working in limited geography or are targeting a narrow environmental or social dilemma that show potential for growth. With access to compliance resources, including the Higg Index, brands and manufacturers will be able to accelerate their positive impact initiatives, while delivering products that are eco-conscious and ethical.

“Through the Higg Index, we’ve seen incredible industry collaboration when it comes to standardizing sustainability measurements. It’s critical that we also take collective action to put that data to work,” said SAC CEO Jason Kibbey. “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’s first project will be to work on mill improvement, a critical part of the clothing production process. To improve environmental responsibility of mills, the organization will collaborate with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Clean by Design program—which minimizes chemical, energy and water use to scale mill improvement across the global garment sector. At the end of the year, the AII will hone in on how to expand mill improvements efforts worldwide.

[Read more on how the apparel industry is reducing its carbon footprint: What the Industry’s Sustainability Leaders Are Actually Doing With Their Supply Chains]

Seed funding from the IDH and Target, additional financial support from Gap Inc., HSBC Holdings plc. and Gap Inc., and SAC’s industry support for Higg Index Data, will allow AII to continue its support for apparel brands and manufacturers. Future projects will include other improvement efforts, such as closed-loop recycling and worker well-being and onboard more industry members for continued positive impact.

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“IDH strongly believes that the time has come for the apparel sector to join forces to have an impact at scale. 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,” said IDH executive representative Ted van der Put. “This will scale the impact on Sustainable Development Goals related to environment and social conditions.”