Driving Change with SAC

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Driving Change with SAC 

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbour photo Rasmus Flindt Pedersen.jpgIWTO’s engagement with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) proves more important than ever as SAC makes moves to work more closely with European policy initiatives, according to plans presented at the 2016 SAC full membership meeting held 8-10 May in Copenhagen, Denmark.

SAC will seek to position its Higg Index, a standardized supply chain benchmarking tool, as “a primary point of reference” for government regulations and standards such as the EU’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Garment Initiative. IWTO, a SAC member since 2012, contributes to SAC’s task teams and engages in the technical development of the Higg Index where wool is affected. Representing IWTO, Professor Beverley Henry (outgoing Chair of the Sustainable Practices Working Group LCA TAG), Kjersti Kevisth (SPWG Member) and David Maslen (SPWG LCA TAG Observer) were among the 400 delegates attending. SAC has approximately 170 members representing 40% of the apparel and footwear industry, coming from every segment of fashion, manufacturing and retail, as well as trade organisations such as IWTO and NGOs, academic research groups, and sustainability service providers.

SAC’s primary goal is to move the global apparel and footwear industry towards greater sustainability, primarily through use of its Higg Index. As a SAC member, IWTO participates in the development of the Higg as it relates to wool, as well as other key task teams. 

“It is important that IWTO maintains a presence in the sustainability area to raise awareness of the unique properties of wool and accounting issues for animal fibres that make it difficult to be represented fairly by rules set up for ‘industrial’ fibres derived from fossil fuels or plant-based fibres,” reports IWTO LCA TAG chair Beverley Henry. “In order to ensure that wool is not disadvantaged by the assessment of sustainability for apparel and footwear it is important to have input to the development of accounting criteria and to the Higg Index specifically.” While this does take time and commitment, this work is particularly important, and its influence may well extend to other interest groups such as Made-By, Associate Professor Henry noted.


Achievements for Wool

IWTO representatives have made regular input to the ongoing development of the Higg Index’s treatment of wool.

Achievements include

- New wool LCA data have been included in the Higg Index databases

- Improved LCA for wool (the Higg allows for a biophysical allocation method, as recommended by IWTO LAC TAG research – more about this here)

- Stages of use, reuse and recycling will now be included in the Higg Index – an advance from one year ago when the Index’s accounting stopped at the retail shelf

- SAC now recognizes that it needs to address the unfair scoring of wool and other natural fibres for indicators such as land use

- SAC is starting to recognise that qualitative indicators describing positive sustainability values are needed – how products and materials contribute to good things like biodiversity, land management, and biodegradability

- The SAC Materials data library is now likely to be expanded to include knitted wool textiles – until now, the database was restricted to wovens


Transparency is Coming

SAC also announced plans to roll out a “Higg transparency” plan later this year, with the aim of making Higg information transparent to consumer and stakeholders, on a voluntary basis, by 2020. Participating in the task team workshop on Communication and Transparency, IWTO representative Kjersti Kviseth noted a strong interest among several brands for more information on how materials can make positive contributions in areas such as biodiversity and land management. Areas like these, Ms Kviseth notes, are not directly covered by the single scores of the Higg Index, and may be favourable to wool and natural fibres.

How Sustainable is Your Outfit, infographic made by Anthesis Group Partner of SAC, Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Unleashing the Designers

Design thinking as a driving force for sustainability and change was another key takeaway – a message that was underscored atPlanet Textiles and the Copenhagen Fashion Summit which followed the SAC meeting. “Unleash the designers – design is the most powerful tool for sustainability,” said Hannah Jones, Vice President of Sustainable Business & Innovation at Nike, speaking at the CFS. Livia Firth, Creative Director of Eco-Age and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge, also speaking at the fashion summit, pushed for change in fashion’s current business model: producing huge volumes of clothes in incredibly fast cycles and very, very cheaply.

“Nothing will ever change if the business model of fast fashion stays as it is,” Ms Firth said.

“In light of the circular economy, design thinking is a must,” notes Ms Kviseth. Education about fibre choice, about wool and about how the Higg works, could emerge as another important area of work for IWTO.

For more information on IWTO’s work in the sustainability of wool, click here

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