- On November 1-2, around 500 representatives from the global fashion industry converged in Singapore – and virtually – for the Annual Meeting of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).
- Bringing together the entire apparel sector value chain – from brands and retailers to manufacturers and affiliates – at a critical moment in the escalation of the climate crisis and human rights violations, the event focused on collective commitment to drive urgent actions.
- SAC CEO Amina Razvi urged immediate sector-wide action to address systemic sustainability and human rights issues.
SINGAPORE, Nov. 2 – The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) held its Annual Meeting on November 1-2 in Singapore. As the climate crisis gathers momentum, the event, held in-person for the first time since 2019, offered a unique opportunity for retailers, brands, manufacturers and other stakeholders to have crucial sustainability conversations.
The non-profit organization brought together around 500 representatives from the entire apparel and footwear value chain to address urgent systemic issues relating to human rights and the climate crisis, both in-person and virtually.
The number of attendees, from around the world, highlighted a heightened awareness of the need for fundamental and rapid change in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the power of coming together to network in-person, share best practices and problem solve collectively.
With the theme Collective Action on Common Ground, the two-day event kicked off with a keynote speech from SAC’s CEO Amina Razvi, who stressed the need for a “radical transformation” of the entire sector in the context of the climate emergency and it is “key that the global south has a voice and role” in this as the industry looks toward a just transition.
She said that the enormity and urgency of the challenges ahead can only be addressed by collaboration and equal partnership – underlining that competitiveness must be temporarily put to one side while fashion’s environmental and social problems are solved.
Calling for unity and cooperation, she said: “We need to establish, listen for and emphasize the shared objective. Finding this common ground is essential because, without it, we can’t move forward. It’s industry versus activists, natural vs synthetic, growth vs degrowth, global north vs global south.
“We will not succeed in solving systemic challenges if we are stuck in the same loops, unwilling and unable to move forward from entrenched positions. Instead, we need to learn how to embrace feedback and transform it into opportunities, always moving towards our shared objectives – creating the delicate balance between advocating and listening.”
The SAC showcased the way more than 21,000 organizations globally are using its tools, the Higg Index, designed to lead the industry towards a better place. From those using the FEM (Facility Environmental Module) to work with its value chain on water use to others using the BRM (Brand & Retail Module) to report on Scope 3 emissions.
In another engaging discussion on driving an inclusive transition to decarbonization, Jeannie Renne-Malone, who leads the global sustainability function at VF Corporation, stressed the importance of working in partnership: “One million people from across the globe are responsible for making our products. We have a responsibility to protect and uplift all those across our supply chain and operations.”
“This entails having partnerships from the very beginning. For example, we don’t want to design a regenerative agriculture strategy without having farmers at the table with us. This is their livelihoods.”
Anne Patricia Sutanto from the International Apparel Federation called for action from all actors in industry:
“Supply chains can only do so much. At the end of the day we need brands and customers to engage in better buying and wearing practices, if we want to truly ensure no one is left behind.”
Other sustainability leaders sharing their expertise included Tonje Drevland, Head of Section, the Norwegian Consumer Authority, speaking on a plenary panel session entitled Challenges & Opportunities for Standardizing Eco-Labelling and speakers from H&M, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the FairWear Foundation and the IPCC.
The aim of the SAC’s Annual Meeting was to establish common ground on sustainability issues and drive progress on solutions. Singapore was the chosen location in recognition of the global south’s importance for the apparel and footwear industry, in terms of both manufacturing and design, as well as their critical voice in tackling the global climate crisis.
At the event, experts – including policy thought leaders, academics, brands, manufacturers, and retailers – came together to discuss topics like eco-labelling, decarbonization and responsible purchasing practices and shared concrete examples of how companies are using and benefiting from the Higg Index suite of tools. With the window for climate action closing fast, it was 2022’s major opportunity for the apparel and footwear sector to agree on ways forward.
For 2022, the Annual Meeting was powered by the Global Fashion Agenda, which held its own event, the Global Fashion Summit, on November 3. The next edition of the SAC’s Annual Meeting will be held in Boston, USA, in October 2023.
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About the Sustainable Apparel Coalition:
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is an independent and impact-creating organization that aims to lead the industry toward a shared vision of sustainability based upon a joint approach for measuring, evaluating, and improving performance.
As a non-profit organization, it has members from across the apparel, footwear and textile sector, but exists independently outside any one company so that it can drive progress. The SAC’s collective action efforts bring more than 280 global brands, retailers, manufacturers, NGOs, academics and industry associations together. They represent about half of the apparel and footwear industry along the whole supply chain – from sustainability pioneers to organizations just getting started.
Before the SAC existed, companies worked in a siloed way, using their own programmes and measurements that lacked standardization and an ability to drive collective action. In 2010, Walmart and Patagonia identified this as a serious problem. Joining forces, they brought together peers and competitors from across the sector, to develop a universal approach to measuring sustainability performance and founded The Sustainable Apparel Coalition.