Apparel Impact Institute Aims to Scale Up Sustainability

Jessica Binns
Senior Editor
The AII's first project will focus on mill improvement — among the most damaging areas of the apparel supply chain — and will leverage the Natural Resources Defense Council's Clean by Design program, which reduces water, energy  and chemical use to scale mill improvement across the industry and across geographies.

Launched with seed funding from the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and Target, and with additional financial support from PVH Corp., Gap Inc. and HSBC Holdings, the Apparel Impact Institute (AII) aims to rally the apparel and footwear industry around collective action and scalable sustainable initiatives. The AII will work with fashion brands and manufacturers to identify, fund and scale worthy initiatives that improve the industry’s overall footprint and impact.

Even though there’s greater awareness about sustainability and more brands are engaging in sustainability projects, the main industry challenge is first and foremost: scale. For example, the AII will look for projects that are operating in limited geography or are narrowly focused but could be more broadly applied for greater impact and results.

"At Target, we know that our decisions have the potential to impact millions of people around the globe, from the people who create our products to the families they support and the communities where they live, and we're committed to leveraging Target's scale for good," said Ivanka Mamic, senior director of responsible sourcing, Target. "Industry collaboration is vital to driving change and ensuring a sustainable apparel industry. We support the Apparel Impact Institute's analytical approach to collaboration and think it will provide a solid foundation for tracking progress and measuring outcomes, which will help propel the apparel industry forward."

The AII's first project will focus on mill improvement — among the most damaging areas of the apparel supply chain — and will leverage the Natural Resources Defense Council's Clean by Design program, which reduces water, energy  and chemical use to scale mill improvement across the industry and across geographies. Next, the AII will work on how to expand mill improvement initiatives globally.

"Through the Higg Index, we've seen incredible industry collaboration when it comes to standardizing sustainability measurements," said Sustainable Apparel Coalition CEO Jason Kibbey, whose organization is providing industry support and access to Higg Index data. "It's critical that we also take collective action to put that data to work. The Apparel Impact Institute allows us to act jointly on scaling practices that have a positive impact on people, planet, and the whole industry, while simultaneously helping brands and manufacturers improve their Higg Index scores."

The organizations launching the AII have engaged San Francisco management consultancy Schaffer&Combs for project management support of the institute's early stage activities.

Going forward, AII projects will address issues such as closed-loop recycling and worker well-being, and will welcome additional apparel and footwear brands and manufacturers.

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