Introducing Cascale, a New Era for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Photo of rolling green hills
February 26, 2024

The SAC enters a new chapter marked by a new name, new look, and more.

The world and our industries have transformed significantly, yet our purpose remains paramount.

Amid these changing conditions and increased urgency, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition enters a new era. As part of our ongoing evolution and commitment to scale impact further, we are unveiling a new name, new look, and more.

But first, let’s reflect on our journey.

Unifying the Industry 

Our journey has evolved from fostering collaboration and alignment on tools, to tool adoption and strategic partnerships, and finally to finding new avenues for scaling impact.

We began in 2009 with a simple, yet ambitious vision to convene stakeholders across the industry on a pre-competitive basis to develop a common approach to measuring sustainability. Spearheaded by Patagonia and Walmart, the Higg Index was born to drive accountability and action, with tools spanning product, facility, and brand and retailer needs. All the tools in the suite: the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM), Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM), Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM), Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), and Higg Product Module (PM) – are designed to enhance standardized sustainability pathways for the apparel, footwear, and consumer goods sectors.

The Higg Index – which we own and develop – remains essential to our origins and of global influence in supply chains. Today, we are exploring additional, complementary avenues of change to scale insights, share learnings, and foster adoption of tools and best practices.

Fostering Growth and Tools Adoption 

Amid the pandemic, in 2020, we developed a new strategic plan. It reflected our journey as an organization and the need to evolve, to be more agile, and to respond to the rapidly changing  global context. In 2022, as part of our strategic roadmap, we carried out a comprehensive midpoint assessment. The message from our stakeholders was clear: sharpen our focus on what matters most, delivering on scaled positive impact as we collectively seek to transform our industry. This led us to refine our strategic plan in 2023 to “Evolution for Impact” with climate change, decent work, and nature-positive future as our three foundational pillars. This strategy drives our impact, initiatives, and partnerships, building on a decade of work and progress.

Our vision remains the same: a global consumer goods industry that gives more than it takes to the planet and its people.

Today, over 24,000 users rely on data insights through the Higg Index suite of tools, hundreds of executives convene at our annual events, including our flagship Annual Meeting, and manufacturer and brand forums, and our influence is deepening. As of December 2023, our membership included over 300 retailers, brands, manufacturers, governments, academia, industry associations, and nonprofits across 36 countries. By creating a community space for constructive dialogue, co-created solutions, and shared learning opportunities, we have advanced collective action across the value chain.

The Higg Index is proof that deep collaboration is not only possible – it’s essential to driving systemic change. For example, the latest Higg Index improvements were developed through hundreds of hours of dialogue, engagement, development, and testing with members and stakeholders. Across all of the tools, users benefit from reduced audits and assessments, improved benchmarking opportunities, and the chance to be sustainability leaders for the long haul. It remains one fundamental aspect of our broadened focus and one of the most widely-used sustainability measurement tools in the apparel and footwear industry today.

We believe the commitment to evolve is a shared responsibility. This is why we require alignment with our ambitious 2030 Decarbonization Program (including setting science-based targets, or SBTs aligned with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol) as part of our “Evolution for Impact” strategy refined in 2023. There are further exciting programs in store too, including those focused on responsible corporate practices, circular product design, and responsible manufacturing. Our membership requirements will also continue to evolve.

And, we’re already making progress towards these goals. As of September 2023, 50.7 percent of our members had set and or committed to SBTs. In November 2023, we launched the updated Higg FEM 4.0 based on more than two years of collected feedback from members and a pilot with 400 users. The results were improved data precision, alignment with key industry standards, expanded environmental impacts, user-centric design, and audit efficiency. In March 2023, we updated the Higg BRM which assesses sustainability performance across 11 key impact areas within three pillars: environmental, social, and governance better aligning with upcoming regulation.

Given the rapidly evolving policy landscape, we closely monitor and seek to align our efforts as evidenced in our recent collaborative reports and policy engagement. As leaders in global apparel and textiles with the potential to influence sustainable pathways for adjacent product categories, our efforts extend to advocating for policies that lead to real change. Working closely with the Global Fashion Agenda and the Federation of European Sporting Goods, we co-founded the Policy Hub in 2020 to propose ambitious sustainability policies for the apparel and textiles industry, particularly in Europe. As the regulatory landscape evolves, so will our work, with further developments underway.

As Amina Razvi, our former chief executive officer, has often said: “Partnership is the new leadership.” The challenges we face are monumental, and we can’t afford to operate in silos. We aim to partner with intention, so as not to duplicate efforts and initiatives, and to propel us forward towards a more sustainable future. Together with stakeholders such as Apparel Impact Institute, Reset Carbon, and German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), we are aligning our efforts on decarbonization. In collaborations with The Industry We Want, Social & Labor Convergence Program, and the International Apparel Federation, we are advancing our efforts on decent work. Technology collaborator Worldly, Aii and the SLCP have all spun out from our organization, creating a more robust ecosystem of collaborators and showcasing our agility and adaptability amid change. We are also founding members of the Apparel Alliance, alongside Textile Exchange, Aii, and ZDHC.

Our approach is informed by a diverse team spread across 41 locations. Our global team has grown three-fold since 2019, bolstering our capacity, expertise, and global presence. We believe driving positive impact and fostering a positive and inclusive organizational culture – including remote workplaces, flexible schedules, and room for our employees’ passion projects. (We’re hiring!)

Expanding Influence and Scaling Impact 

We are at another pivotal juncture, and we need to work in partnership and in trust with one another. With escalating challenges such as environmental decay, social inequalities, and economic uncertainty, the traditional business models and ways of working within our industry, and others, are exacerbating the problems rather than mitigating them. The global issues that divide us are escalating faster than the solutions. But together, we have the potential to expand our influence and scale our impact.

We are united by a singular vision: to create a consumer goods industry that gives back more than it takes to the planet and its people. This is captured in our “Evolution for Impact” strategy, which is our true north, guided by our three foundational pillars: combat climate change, decent work for all, and a nature-positive future. Combating climate change means commitment to a minimum 45 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Fostering decent work for all means ensuring respect for workers and safe, healthy working conditions. Building a nature-positive future means we aim to move beyond reducing negative impacts to contributing positively to biodiversity, natural ecosystems, and the communities in which we operate. These pillars are not mutually exclusive but interconnected and form a unified strategy that can lead to systemic change.

As the world and industry evolve to meet this opportunity for scaled impact, so must we.

So, call us Cascale. 

Beginning in 2021, we’ve been reflecting on who we are and where we are going. The “Cas” in Cascale is “SAC” reversed, while “CA” refers to “collective action,” and “scale” references scaled ambitions. The “C” in Cascale evokes a new “phase” similar to lunar cycles in nature, as well as a moonlight or mirrored reflection. The elements of the logo represent our three member categories and our external stakeholders, who all play a critical role in our shared success.

We’re here to support these joint efforts by continuing to connect retailers, brands, manufacturers, key affiliates, and diverse stakeholders. We remain fully committed to maintaining and strengthening our relationships with valued members, partners, and stakeholders, especially as they adopt adjacent product categories. We also welcome new members in these categories, including home furnishings, sporting and outdoor goods, and luggage and bags, as we recognize the synergies across sectors and global regions and the opportunity to drive further impact at scale. Our focus is on ensuring continuity, collaboration, and open communication to continue delivering value together.

In the spirit of transparency, we are measuring success through tool and program adoption, member engagement, and member commitments, among other factors. We support programs through peer-to-peer learning, community sharing, SBT-certification training sessions, Higg Index training sessions, the Manufacturer Climate Action Program (MCAP), and incoming strategic partnerships. This work will be documented in our annual impact assessment reports and updated through our regular communications and events.

We hope Cascale demonstrates an attitude of trial and evolution, in which we all share a dynamic part to play in promoting an equitable and restorative consumer goods industry.

For us, this responsibility remains in creating access and community. For you, this means valuable access to the leading Higg Index suite of tools and its unique industry insights, shared learnings and best practices, and mutually beneficial partnerships and programs.

Thank you for being part of this rewarding movement. We invite you to be part of a global community that aims to co-create solutions to today’s biggest social and environmental challenges.

Other Blogs