Sustainable Apparel Coalition Discusses “Wearing It Well: How the Apparel Sector is Accelerating Change in Supply Chains” at New York Climate Week

  • NY Climate Week
Photo of tailors sewing by hand
October 20, 2023

At a New York Climate Week panel convened by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Lee Green, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) joined other panelists from the apparel sector to discuss accelerating transparency, accountability, and collaboration in supply chains on The Nest Climate Campus. The session was moderated by Payal Luthra, Global Apparel and Textiles Lead at WWF, who set the scene by acknowledging that with more and more sectors focusing on Scope 3 data and emission reductions, supply chain data integrity and transparency have never been more critical. The goal of the multi-stakeholder session – which also included Natalie Grillon, Executive Director of Open Supply Hub and Abigail Kammerzell, Head of Sustainability for H&M North America – was to share reflections, lessons learned, case studies and tools as part of a discussion on the role of open data and cross-sector collaboration to accelerate change in supply chains.

Grillon opened the discussion by sharing how Open Supply Hub, a nonprofit and open-source supply chain data platform that includes data from over 750 organizations world-wide, serves as a transparent resource to identify facilities and ensure trustworthy data sources, which in turn facilitates collaboration to tackle supply chain issues and achieve shared goals.

Green shared how the SAC, a global multi-stakeholder nonprofit alliance, evolved from an initial partnership between Patagonia and Walmart in 2010 to now represent more than 50% of the apparel and textile industry in 36 countries – over 280 retailers, brands and manufacturers, as well as affiliate stakeholders including academics and NGOs. “This panel really reflects our ecosystem,” Green said. “H&M is a longstanding member, and they sit on our Board. WWF is an affiliate member, and we have worked alongside Open Supply Hub. Alliances like these can help realize our vision of a global industry that gives more than it takes – to the planet and its people.”

The conversation then broadened to define transparency versus traceability – and the panel agreed that transparency is critical for climate action. Grillon shared that the textile and apparel industry reflects more transparency than other sectors, and traced the evolution of this fact from the role of the consumer and the history of civil society engagement, to the role of conveners like the SAC and brands like H&M.

Kammerzell shared how H&M, which has disclosed supplier information since 2013, uses both the SAC’sHigg Index, the industry-leading suite of tools for companies to measure environmental and social performance across the entire value chain, and Open Supply Hub. She also detailed how open data facilitates collaboration on nature-based solutions and investments, such as the partnership with WWF and on the wood Ai app used at factories in Cambodia. In collaboration with WWF, she explained, H&M is engaged in a regenerative wool project in South Africa and sustainable cotton production in India, which helps farmers adapt and become more resilient to climate change. However, she also shared the need for tracking the impact of raw materials – through Textile Exchange certified and TextileGenesis Tracking – and how H&M is working to improve Tier 1 and Tier 2 traceability.

The group discussed tangible examples of how open data can enable Scope 3 mitigation and climate adaption. These included Mammut, which is utilizing the Open Supply Chain Hub to collaborate more effectively with its suppliers to lower its supply chain GHG emissions, and ALDO, which used the Higg Product Module to provide granular life cycle assessment data that facilitated the introduction of products manufactured with more sustainable materials, which achieved a lower carbon footprint, as well as to collaborate with value chain partners on decarbonizing the company’s supply chain. Green shared that the SAC had announced a new revised strategic plan at New York Climate Week, which included a redefined mandate of “evolution for impact” – a focal theme that now drives the organization’s strategies, initiatives, and partnerships, which leverage the strengths of multiple organizations to drive catalytic change.

In addition to detailing how the SAC’s Decarbonization Program, which aims for a 45% emissions reduction by 2030, Green shared updates to the SAC’s membership requirements this year, requiring all its members to set Science Based Targets (SBTs). He added that as of September 2023, more than half of SAC members had either set or committed to setting SBTs. Green also revealed that in November, the SAC, with Worldly, the impact intelligence platform that is the exclusive licensee of the SAC’s Higg Tools, will collectively launch the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0, which aligns with global standards to drive emissions reductions, offering improved data quality that enables more accurate environmental assessments and industry alignment through compliance with the GHG Protocol and ZDHC Roadmap to Zero standards, among other benefits. And, with data from the Higg Index and in partnership with Aii, Worldly and Reset Carbon, Green shared how the SAC has been able to pinpoint suppliers contributing the most emissions through data collected via the Higg Index. By focusing engagement efforts there, the organization will establish targeted programs to drive decarbonization at scale – and modeling suggests that this could lead to a 35% reduction in emissions by 2030, based on a 2.3% growth rate.

“We stand at a crossroads,” Green said. “We can either remain passive participants or become catalysts for profound, industry-wide change. This isn’t just SAC’s journey; it isn’t just H&M’s or Open Supply Hub’s;  it’s a collective endeavor. And the active participation of all actors is the accelerator for our shared impact.”

Green recommended that that brands engage the value chain, work with partners, and avoid unnecessary duplications, and advocate for policies that lead to real change – and shared the goal for policymakers to provide clear and consistent guidance, leaving no room for ambiguity for data usage, from product footprinting and responsible purchasing practices to reporting standards and consumer labeling. In both cases, “Just get started,” Green said. “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress…We don’t have time to wait for perfect solutions. The perfect time for action was yesterday. The next best date is today, so let’s get moving.”

Sustainable Apparel Coalition Discusses “The Era of Collective Action” at New York Climate Week

  • NY Climate Week
Photo of row of people standing back to the camera with their arms around each other
October 19, 2023

Change makers convened for New York Climate Week, where Amina Razvi, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a global multi-stakeholder nonprofit alliance that represents about 50% of the apparel and textile industry in 36 countries, joined other stakeholders on The Nest Climate Campus main stage for the “Fashion Climate Advocates: The Era of Collective Action” panel discussion.

The panel provided a deep dive into the textile and apparel industry’s role, strategies, and collective efforts on climate action, centering around decarbonization and the critical importance of collaboration to drive change. Anchoring the discussion in the idea of multi-stakeholder collaboration and actionable ways to drive immediate and long-term impact, the panelists represented the broader ecosystem.

Moderated by Dr. Michelle Tuveson, Chairperson & Executive Director of the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, in addition to Razvi the panel also included James Schaffer, Chief Strategy Officer at Worldly, the impact intelligence platform for brands and manufacturers, and Andrea Kennedy, Lead Faculty at Berkeley College’s Fashion Merchandising and Management Department.

After a scene-setting introduction by Dr. Tuveson that included the fact that the industry produces as much as 8% of global carbon emissions, Razvi explained the SAC’s goal is to “transform business for exponential impact through groundbreaking programs and tools, collaborative partnerships, and trusted leadership on industry sustainability.” This mission, she said, was demonstrated through the SAC’s Decarbonization Program, which aims for a 45% emissions reduction by 2030 and this year required all SAC members to set Science Based Targets (SBTs); as of September, more than half of SAC members have either set or committed to setting SBTs.

Schaffer furthered this discussion by sharing a window into Worldly, which spun off from the SAC in 2019 and today is the exclusive licensee of the SAC’s Higg Index, a suite of tools that measures social and environmental impact and supports brands and retailers in their decarbonization efforts. Kennedy examined how academia can play a role in enhancing or critiquing these efforts, and shared how her students use the Higg Index tools in analysis that can change their perspectives on sustainable design.

The SAC announced a new revised strategic plan at New York Climate Week, and Ravzi elaborated on the redefined mandate of “evolution for impact” – a focal theme that now drives the organization’s strategies, initiatives, and partnerships, which leverage the strengths of multiple organizations to drive catalytic change. These include the apparel alliance, which the SAC co-founded with Aii, Textile Exchange, and ZDHC Foundation in order to coordinate tools, programs, and resources that reduce redundancies and drive performance improvements and collective actions to achieve a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The SAC also partnered on The Industry We Want initiative with Fair Wear and the Ethical Trading Initiative to develop a set of metrics to measure action across three critical issues: the wage gap, purchasing practices, and GHG emissions; together, TIWW launched the Industry Dashboard, which synthesized feedback from suppliers in 54 countries and was accessed by over 500 stakeholders, and continues to work towards the development of a clear set of milestones to offer coordinated, industry-wide solutions.

Finally, Schaffer and Razvi announced that in November, Worldly and the SAC will collectively launch the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0, which aligns with global standards to drive emissions reductions, offering improved data quality that enables more accurate environmental assessments and industry alignment through compliance with the GHG Protocol and ZDHC Roadmap to Zero standards, among other benefits. “The time for siloed and pilot projects is over,” Razvi said. “We need an all hands on deck to build a global consumer goods industry that gives more than it takes to the planet and its people.”

Reflections on NY Climate Week: Three Key Takeaways for a Sustainable Future

  • NY Climate Week
NY Climate Week Reflections, Lee Green
Black and white headshot of Lee Green
Lee Green
September 25, 2023

New York Climate Week is more than an annual gathering of eco-conscious individuals and organizations; it’s a crucible of ideas and innovations, a space where the future of our planet starts taking shape. This year, I had the incredible privilege of diving headlong into this transformative experience alongside my CEO, Amina Razvi. As we navigated through a labyrinth of discussions, panels, and networking events, three critical insights emerged that I believe can reshape our approach to sustainability.


1. The Power of Cross-Sector Collaboration

The first realization that struck me was the urgent need for cross-sector collaboration. While attending panel discussions and speaking with experts beyond the fashion world, I was struck by the potential synergies between different sectors.

Take, for instance, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and its engagement with the finance sector. SAC, with its focus on making the apparel and textile industry more sustainable, has much to gain from the finance world’s expertise in risk assessment and capital allocation. Conversely, the finance sector can glean insights into responsible investing by taking a cue from the sustainability metrics and frameworks that organizations like SAC have developed. It’s this kind of collaboration that can accelerate impact in ways we’ve never seen before.

Moreover, let’s not forget that the SAC itself is a microcosm of global expertise, with members from 36 countries, spanning retailers/brands, manufacturers, academia, and NGOs. The rich diversity within our coalition has made it a hub for innovation. Our members are not merely implementing sustainability measures; they are pioneering them. Whether it’s developing circular fashion models, creating low-impact materials, or piloting sustainability programs, the skills and initiatives of our members could serve as blueprints for other industries. It’s this kind of intra-sector collaboration and innovation that can enhance and enrich our partnerships with other sectors, making our collective efforts more cohesive and impactful.


2. Inclusivity: Making the Journey a Shared Experience

The second takeaway for me was the imperative of inclusivity. Climate change disproportionately affects marginalized communities, exacerbating existing social injustices, whether they be based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or geography. But, beyond the obvious, I was touched by the conversations of how people can feel separated from the climate conversation because of the color of their skin, or where they live in the United States. One panel discussion I watched centered around underrepresented voices and delved into storytelling approaches as a tool to engage those whose stories often go unheard. It was a powerful session, but also one that showed me, while there is a long way to go, we can be optimistic.

In the context of the SAC, inclusivity means living up to our role as a global convenor that represents all actors across our industry equally. It’s about more than just partnering with manufacturers; it means engaging them in meaningful dialogue. Gone are the days when representatives should just show up with a clipboard, ticking off boxes. The new paradigm demands that we give manufacturers a voice, allowing them to participate as equal partners in the quest for sustainability and a just transition. This inclusivity can manifest in various ways—from shared decision-making to capacity-building initiatives—that ultimately make the journey a collective endeavor.


3. Impact Over Intent: The New Gold Standard

The final, and perhaps most critical, insight is that good intentions are no longer enough. The stakes are too high, and the window of opportunity too narrow for us to be content with mere aspirations.

It’s no longer a question of ‘what’ we aim to achieve but ‘how’ we are translating these aims into tangible impacts. The conversations at NY Climate Week overwhelmingly emphasized this shift, especially among the journalists we spoke to, who were more interested in actionable outcomes rather than lofty goals.

Whether it’s reducing carbon emissions or fostering ethical labor practices, we need to focus on generating real-world impacts that are both measurable and meaningful. Only then can we begin to enact the change that our planet so desperately needs.


Conclusion

New York Climate Week wasn’t just an event; it was an education. It revealed the contours of a new world that we can build together—a world defined not just by aspirations but by impactful actions, fostered through collaboration and inclusivity.

So, here’s my invitation to you: let’s take these insights and turn them into a roadmap for the future. It’s high time we move from dialogue to action, making each day count in the collective quest for a sustainable, inclusive, and impactful tomorrow.

But, let’s make sure that when NY Climate Week returns next year, we are really talking about the transformations that have happened, and not just our good intentions.

Thank you for joining me in this transformative journey. The road ahead is long, but every step we take together makes it that much shorter.

 

New York Climate Week: Moving Beyond Awareness to Driving Impact

  • NY Climate Week
New York Climate Week, Lee Green blog
Black and white headshot of Lee Green
Lee Green
September 18, 2023

When the calendar marks the beginning of the New York Climate Week, the world listens. This annual global summit brings together governments, businesses, and citizens to discuss solutions for a sustainable future, acting as a beacon of hope, innovation, and above all, action. But while dialogues, debates, and pledges mark the rhythm of the week, a key question remains: how do we move from awareness to driving measurable impact?


The Limits of Awareness 

Awareness, as crucial as it is, can only take us so far. Climate change isn’t waiting for our boardroom discussions to wrap up or our pledges to turn into action plans. It’s happening here and now. While discussing the complexities of sustainability and policy is essential, it’s just one part of the equation. A climate conference, no matter how high-profile, must serve as a catalyst for real-world action across sectors and borders. We need a multi-faceted approach that combines policy initiatives, consumer action, and radical business transformations.

 

All Hands on Deck: Policy, Consumers, and Businesses

Policy as a Catalyst

Governments wield immense power in setting the sustainability agenda by implementing policies that encourage or even mandate sustainable practices. However, policy must be considered a floor, not a ceiling. Regulations should not only compel corporations to meet minimum requirements but also serve as a catalyst for innovation in sustainability.

One aspect often overlooked is the importance of harmonization of policy across jurisdictions. Inconsistent policies can create fragmentation and add complexity for global industries like textiles and apparel. The value of policy harmonization lies in creating a unified sustainability framework that streamlines compliance and facilitates cross-border collaboration. When policies are harmonized, it encourages widespread adoption of best practices and allows for a more effective pooling of resources, technologies, and expertise.

By exceeding the foundational structure that policy provides, corporations can focus on making strides toward more transformative, long-lasting impacts in sustainability. This harmonized approach opens the door for collective action


Consumer Power

Consumers are more than just passive end-users; they are powerful agents of change that can drive sustainability from the ground up. When they make eco-conscious choices, it sends a resounding message up the supply chain, encouraging brands to adopt more sustainable practices. However, the efficacy of this “power of the wallet” is heavily dependent on the availability of credible information and transparency. Brands have a responsibility to furnish consumers with accurate, easily accessible data about the sustainability of their products, which can be verified by trusted third-party assessments.

The digital age has further amplified this consumer power. Social media platforms and online communities not only allow consumers to make informed decisions but also turn individual choices into collective action. This significantly magnifies their impact on corporate sustainability policies. In essence, when armed with reliable information and supported by a community of like-minded individuals, consumer power can act as a formidable force, pushing the industry toward lasting changes in sustainability.


Business Transformation

Finally, the role of businesses in driving sustainability is irreplaceable. Businesses are in a unique position to drive substantial change, from innovation in eco-friendly technologies to restructuring their supply chains for minimal environmental impact. Beyond implementing greener and fairer practices, businesses can influence their partners, suppliers, and even competitors to adopt similar approaches, thereby magnifying their impact.

Furthermore, through ethical sourcing and fostering a corporate culture of sustainability, companies can create a ripple effect that extends far beyond their immediate sphere. By turning sustainability into a business advantage, companies are not only helping the planet but also securing their place in the future marketplace.


How SAC is Leading the Way in Textiles and Apparel

This is where organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) are making a measurable difference. With the textile and apparel industry ranking as one of the most environmentally taxing sectors, SAC’s work is all the more important. Through tools like the Higg Index and the newly enhanced Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0, SAC not only measures but actively encourages improvements in sustainability performance.

The Higg FEM 4.0, which will be launched in November, offers an unprecedented depth of facility-level performance metrics. It captures data with enhanced granularity related to waste management, energy use, and even social responsibility. Fully restructured, the Higg FEM 4.0 data is better aligned to support reporting to GHG Protocol, Science-Based Targets initiative, ZDHC Roadmap to Zero, and more. Additionally, new features have been implemented to reduce the risk of human error and guide facilities precisely when they need it most. This enhanced version provides actionable insights that support companies to move beyond mere compliance and establish a more substantial, measurable impact.

Furthermore, SAC is at the forefront of promoting collective action, bringing together businesses, governments, academics and NGOs, amongst others, for holistic systemic change. By offering resources and tools that aim for real-world impact rather than just ticking off compliance checklists, SAC is playing a pivotal role in setting a new bar for sustainability in the textile and apparel industry.

In an era where the climate crisis is accelerating, SAC’s mission is firmly aligned with the foundational ethos of New York Climate Week: collective action and measurable impact. It’s not just about dialogue, but about setting agendas and taking steps—steps that make a lasting impact.

 

The Road Ahead: Unity and Action

As New York Climate Week draws the world’s attention to the imminent challenges we face, let’s remember that awareness is the first step on a longer journey. Policy, consumer choice, and business innovation are the milestones we must reach, and organizations like the SAC are working tirelessly to make change happen.

As we look towards a more equitable and restorative future, let’s strive to make every week a Climate Week, each day a day of action, and every moment an opportunity for impact.

New York Climate Week isn’t just a platform for discussion; it’s a launching pad for a sustainable future we collectively envision and build, one impactful step at a time.

With this in mind, I look forward to seeing you there!