When Walmart and Patagonia, two unlikely allies, launched the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) in 2011, it was with the shared goal of creating eco-friendly products based on a standardized approach for measuring sustainability.
A decade later, the organization has come a long way. Its roster has ballooned past 250 members with a collective annual revenue of $845 billion, including household names such as Amazon, Asos, Gap, H&M, Levi Strauss, Nike and The North Face and Timberland owner VF Corp. The SAC’s tentpole product, the Higg Index, has expanded into a suite of sustainability assessment tools deployed by more than 21,000 organizations across 190 countries. It has spun out the Apparel Impact Institute and Higg Co, and helped bolster the Social & Labor Convergence Project’s efforts to improve labor conditions in the garment supply chain.
“Over the past 10 years, we have worked collaboratively across the industry to develop and launch the Higg Index, providing cutting-edge, standardized sustainability tools for our industry,” Amina Razvi, SAC’s executive director, said in a statement. “As we look ahead to our next decade of action, the Higg Index will be central to the SAC’s mission of transforming businesses for exponential impact—providing the building blocks necessary to help us make smarter and more informed decisions about the products we make, how we make them, and how we partner together to reduce impact on people and the planet.”
The organization marks its anniversary at a critical inflection point for the industry, characterized by a devastating global pandemic, a changing climate and surging social unrest.
“With scientists predicting that we only have 10 years until the effects of climate change are irreversible, we feel a sense of urgency and responsibility to continue moving our industry forward,” Ravzi said. “It is no longer an option to delay action. Worldwide, consumers and investors are prioritizing companies that prioritize sustainability. This moment presents a unique opportunity to rebuild better than before.”
For its “second decade of action,” the SAC has outlined what it describes as a “bold, new” strategic plan built around the pillars of collective action, integrated tools, transparency and sustainability leadership. Much of it revolves around the Higg Index, a tool set that has attracted its share of controversy and criticism in the past. The SAC says it will be transitioning its focus from developing standardized measurement tools to developing “standardized communication that increases transparency and offers industry insights, driving collective action at scale.”
“The SAC has spent 10 years developing the Higg Index for the industry, and now we’re ready to put the tools to use,” said Jeremy Lardeau, the SAC’s vice president of the Higg Index. “The insights provided by the Higg Index will empower the industry to accelerate and deepen the adoption of climate solutions, worker protections and more sustainable products at scale.”
More specific member goals include achieving a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions in line with Science Based Targets by 2030. The organization says it is also keeping an eye on topics like circularity, biodiversity and transparency as they “become increasingly important in these conversations.” Both its staff and members, it adds, will need to become “more nimble” in responding to these issues through methodology development and member involvement, stakeholder engagement and policy conversations.
“As the SAC prepares to embark upon a new decade of transformative action, the organization and its more than 250 members are committed to a bold, new mission to transform business for exponential impact through groundbreaking tools, collaborative partnerships and trusted leadership for industry sustainability,” said Sean Cady, SAC board chair and global vice president for sustainability, responsibility and trade at VF Corp.