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Key Sustainability Groups Align for Apparel’s Greater Good

Industry groups are coming together to amplify their expertise and better the apparel value chain.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), ZDHC Foundation (ZDHC), Textile Exchange and the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) have formed a partnership to accelerate impact and drive new efficiencies for the industry.

The organizations said they are forming an alliance of resources and offerings based on their core competencies and complementary efforts to aid the global supply chain.

“COVID has been a very negative backdrop to so much industry news and it’s true that it has accelerated our views on the potential for transformational partnerships, but together we’ve been contemplating deeper integrations for years,” Amina Razvi, SAC’s executive director, said. “The timing finally seems right.”

The four organizations have documented their efforts with letters of intent clarifying their roles and commitments to cooperation in four areas. In the area of programs and tools, they will seek to connect complementary frameworks like the Higg Facility Environmental Module and ZDHC’s Roadmap to Zero program, and the Higg Brand and Retailer Module and TE’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark, while coordinating subject matter governance in the relevant content areas and engaging the industry more efficiently.

A spokeswoman for Textile Exchange said the recently created Fashion Conveners laid the groundwork for these deeper collaborations. Fashion Conveners brings together nine of the industry’s leading organizers—Aii, Fashion for Good, Global Fashion Agenda, Fashion Makes Change, the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University, SAC, Textile Exchange, the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and ZDHC—into one umbrella group, with the goal of pooling shared knowledge, skills, data, research and networks to “accelerate the transformational change” necessary to reduce the fashion supply chain’s myriad social and environmental impacts.

Focusing on impact management and funding, the groups in the latest partnership aim to consolidate their efforts to benchmark impact improvements in key areas, prioritize the projects and programs that will most accelerate impact for the value chain, directly partner in strategic fundraising in support of these efforts and collaborate to create an annual report of results.

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In addition, they will work to defragment efforts and establish global implementation as a shared industry resource by co-investing in infrastructure, training, education and regional access. The organizations will also seek a substantial decrease in resource expenditure on operational matters by engaging in shared services and creating economies of scale with external service providers.

“Credit is due to the efforts through the years advocating for more effective partnerships, such as the recent work of the Fashion Conveners,” said James Schaffer, managing partner of Schaffer & Combs, the strategy consultancy designing the agreements and facilitating the endeavor. “These four organizations are showing a lot of courage and service to the industry today, building on the professional relationships and trust they’ve developed. The vision of a much more effective ecosystem of impact is closer to reality.”

Frank Michel, executive director of ZDHC, said the ultimate objective is to increase near-term efficiency to accelerate collective impact, adding that “there are some very exciting points of complementarity possible and I think we have the right initial organizations at the table to do that.”

“Ultimately, we see this alliance as an open resource for the industry’s sustainability initiatives, a platform for long-term, efficient industry engagement,” Lewis Perkins, president of Aii, said. “COVID is a wake-up call. We have to continually innovate to preserve our work as a core industry investment.”

The organizations have also highlighted their commitment to resolve persistent barriers between areas of impact and tiers of the supply chain.

“For so long, the mainstream conversation has underemphasized the role of fiber production and textile manufacturing, not to mention what happens at the farm-level itself,” La Rhea Pepper, managing director of Textile Exchange, said. “We’re excited about what these new partnerships can mean for the industry driving holistic and scalable solutions.”

The organizations expect to release more details about their collective efforts before the end of the year and will soon announce engagement opportunities for the industry and other stakeholders.