Blog: Leonie BarrieNew tool to measure sustainability

Leonie Barrie | 30 July 2012

Clothing and footwear firms including Nike, Marks & Spencer, Levi Strauss and Walmart are among those backing a new tool designed to measure sustainability and environmental impact across the supply chain.

The companies are members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which last week unveiled its new and long-awaited Higg Index. The new index is designed to measure everything from water and energy use to greenhouse gas emissions, waste, chemicals and toxicity, and has been released after a year of beta testing the sustainability impacts of some 150 products from more than 63 companies.

For apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh, the focus is on trying to avoid any possible unrest by workers around the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holiday. Firms have agreed to clear payments of salaries, bonuses and other financial benefits before the festival on 19 August.

The decision comes after at least 50 people were injured when violence erupted again at the troubled Ashulia industrial zone on the outskirts of Dhaka - a month after protests forced around 300 garment factories to close.

Hong Kong based clothing giant Esquel Group is eyeing Vietnam for further expansion of its business, and has begun constructing a US$25m apparel plant at the Luong Son industrial zone in the northern province of Hoa Binh. All products made at the plant will be exported to the group's international brand clients, and add to the company's two existing facilities in the country.

Perhaps not surprisingly, textile and clothing markets are likely to remain subdued this year, given the considerable uncertainty in the global economy, and the fact that the debt crisis in the eurozone continues to hit business and consumer confidence. Weak market conditions in the EU and the US affected exports from several Asian countries in the first quarter of 2012, following strong growth in 2011 as a whole.

Poor consumer sentiment in Europe, combined with the impact of strategic investments, has weighed on sportswear brand Puma, pushing it to a 29% drop in second-quarter profit. The company now says it will speed up its transformation plan to "establish a more efficient business model, operating on a leaner cost base."

But performance apparel and footwear maker Under Armour has raised its full-year operating profit expectations after recording strong second quarter growth helped by innovative new products.


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