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Apparel Impact Institute Launches Sustainability Program in California

With existing facility efficiency programs in seven regions throughout Europe and Asia, the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii), which drives scalable solutions for the apparel and footwear industry, is bringing sustainability home.

This summer, the San Francisco-headquartered organization has started feasibility research for implementing its Clean by Design program in apparel manufacturing facilities in California. The goal is to create a tailored version of the program to increase efficiencies and renewables in the state and explore additional innovative solutions.

To fund the feasibility study, Aii turned to Bank of the West, a sustainable bank and another San Francisco based-institution. A subsidiary of BNP Paribas, Bank of the West has committed a $100,000 grant to launch the project.

Developed in 2010 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and focused on energy, water and chemical management, Clean by Design has experience and results in scaling efficiencies in the apparel supply chain in places such as China, Vietnam and India. Aii said the project will begin with assessing the current state of production and identifying apparel industry brand and retail partners, shared suppliers and opportunities for involvement.

“The Clean by Design program works because it can be tailored to meet the needs of individual manufacturing facilities,” Lewis Perkins, president of Aii, said. “We look forward to exploring how it can help manufacturers in this state, where protecting the environment is top of mind for many citizens.”

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Aii said it makes sense to pilot in a state where philanthropic and other forms of capital are available to transform the local apparel supply chain and take a leadership position, particularly considering that Los Angeles has been a fashion hub for decades.

“We like leaning into the legacy of L.A. in the fashion sector,” Perkins said. “With leadership in certain product sectors like streetwear and denim, California has a reputation to be proud of. We want to ensure that this region can also be proud of the way these products are made with excellence in environmental standards and practices.”

The feasibility stage of this program will provide more insights into the long-term role Aii can play within the wet processing and other manufacturing stages of apparel products in greater Los Angeles, and to look across a more holistic “farm to closet” value chain.

“We applaud the work of the fashion and apparel sector to reach their climate targets by working with collaborative organizations like Aii,” said Melissa Fifield, head of corporate social responsibility and sustainability at Bank of the West. “After noting the significant impact the Clean by Design program has made possible in other parts of the world, we look forward to helping bring sustainable solutions home and tailoring them for California apparel manufacturers.”

Aii said teaming up with Bank of the West to launch its sustainability program in California was a natural fit because the bank has policies in place that restrict financing of the dirtiest forms of fossil fuel extraction, like tar sands and Arctic drilling, and other activities harmful to people and the planet, like big tobacco. Bank of the West made a $1 billion commitment to finance clean, efficient and renewable energy, and is on track to achieve that goal ahead of schedule.

To empower consumers to take individual climate action, it launched the 1% for the Planet checking account that enables customers to track the CO2 impact of their purchases and donates 1 percent of net revenue from the account to environmental nonprofits.

The Clean by Design California project kicked off in May. The feasibility phase, which takes four to six months, will uncover the specific interventions and best practices that will suit California manufacturing, Aii noted.

Aii identifies, funds, scales and measures proven quality solutions to accelerate positive impact in the fashion industry. It looks for scalable solutions and best practices that can be applied to the entire value chain.