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New SAC Initiative Tackles Supply Chain Due Diligence

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), a nonprofit alliance promoting sustainable practices for the consumer goods industry, has entered into a partnership with the Initiative for Global Solidarity (IGS) to coordinate a project advancing environmental, social and labor assessment methodologies in the garment and footwear sector.

The initiative is being launched in collaboration with the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii), ZDHC Implementation Hub and the Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP). The funding of approximately 1 million euros ($1.14 million) is geared toward accelerating social and environmental supply chain due diligence, and targets suppliers in selected global value chains, brands and retailers, as well as workers at supplier factories.

“We are excited to receive this funding and truly see it as an opportunity to move the needle further, making even bigger strides towards achieving industrywide collaboration and transformation,” Andrew Martin, vice president of membership and stakeholder engagement at the SAC, said. “As an organization united by a shared vision to move the consumer goods industry into one that gives more than it takes to the people and the planet, we see this project as an opportunity to further our efforts and drive real and positive change by creating synergies with our partners and aligning around sustainability goals, tools and programs that will help us to achieve these goals.”

With the aim of creating and expanding the use of open data standards for social and environmental performance, SAC said the project will have the potential to make a significant impact on transparency and greater sustainability in the textile and garment industry and beyond. It is aiming for a wide range of producers, auditors, sustainability organizations, and brands to adopt the data standards.

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The project will employ three key principles that will inform the work. These are active stakeholder engagement throughout the design, development and rollout of the data models to ensure wide adoption of the standards across the industry; openness and transparency–to allow for the widest possible take-up of the project’s outcomes, all assessment frameworks and data standards will be freely available and published under open licenses, and a focus on improvement so that assessment frameworks serve as an enabling tool to understand strengths and weaknesses.

Due to the different level of progress in the environmental and social modules, two sub-projects will focus on human and labor rights, and environmental impacts. The SLCP will implement the first subproject with the goal of seeing further convergence of a converged assessment framework (CAF) and its pilot in a second industry. Its objective will be to scale the use of the openly accessible assessment framework and data sharing model, and for it to be widely accepted to track and report producers’ compliance with human and labor rights.

The second subproject will be implemented by an alliance consisting of SAC, ZDHC, Aii and Textile Exchange with the expected output to be the development of a Consolidated Environmental Assessment Framework.

“From the beginning, our mission has been to implement a converged assessment framework that supports stakeholders’ efforts to improve working conditions in global supply chains,” said Janet Mensink, SLCP executive director.

The IGS emphasizes the shared responsibility of purchasing and producing companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their actual and potential adverse impacts, creating a more sustainable industry.

“Measuring and reporting on progress is a core element of the due diligence process,” Thorsten Metz, head of the IGS, said. “IGS is therefore happy to be part of this collaboration. By advancing the convergence of environmental and social assessment methodologies, we can free up necessary capacities to achieve measurable progress on the ground.”

The SAC received the funding after submitting a project in partnership with the Aii, SLCP and ZDHC Implementation Hub to create standardized open assessment frameworks and data sharing models. It sees the project as an opportunity to further its work with its Apparel Alliance partners, as part of its commitment to partnering with intent and radical collaboration to transform the industry for exponential impact during its annual meeting last year. The Alliance was established in November 2020 as a result of the SAC, ZDHC, Aii and Textile Exchange joining forces to provide industrywide solutions to reach the ambitious and essential greenhouse ga (GHG) targets.

“I am excited that the Apparel Impact Institute is part of this project and we look forward to working closely with our partners in the Alliance to accelerate impact for the sector,” said Kurt Kipka, vice president of Aii. “Together, we will provide an efficient ecosystem for engagement amongst ourselves and other leading organizations which will accelerate the industry on its path to achieving shared environmental goals. At Aii, we recognize this as a unique opportunity to create meaningful change and we look forward to getting started.”

Frank Michel, executive director of ZDHC, said the initiative fits the organization’s commitment to protecting the planet by reducing the industry’s chemical footprint.

“With the help of our Implementation Hub team, we look forward to seeing the successful rollout of the project, and subsequent impact on the people and planet at large,” Michel added.