The SAC’s 2022 Annual Report 2022 centred on driving collaborative action towards a more responsible industry with the SAC saying it “firmly believes in the power of collaboration as the way forward.”

Amina Razvi, CEO at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, said: “The textile and apparel industry has rightly been facing increasing scrutiny from consumers, stakeholders, and regulators alike when it comes to its impact and progress. Against this backdrop, 2022 provided an opportunity for self-reflection for the SAC. It has ultimately helped us to learn, grow and evolve. We are even more certain that collective action is the only way we are going to transform into an industry that gives more than it takes — to the planet and its people.

“We’ve been working and collaborating with our members, industry experts, key stakeholders, and policymakers to help our members reduce their environmental and social impacts. We are taking these learnings into the year ahead to facilitate deeper collaboration and change across our industry.”

Since launching its 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, the SAC says it has made progress in driving collective action, advancing harmonised tools, and improving transparency; all central to a more responsible industry.

“By coming together and aligning efforts, we can, as an industry, partner with intentional collaboration to drive collective action that delivers long-term sustainable impact,” the report added. “In the year ahead, we continue working tirelessly to deepen stakeholder engagement and collaboration that support the development of a clear set of milestones that offer the coordinated, industry-wide, and joint solutions urgently needed to drive measurable action in the industry.”

Higg Index evolution continues

The SAC had come under fire last year with its Higg Index tool being described as “misleading” by several European advertising watchdogs.

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Fashion brand H&M and outdoor brand Norrona had been reprimanded for green claims made in their clothing marketing, with the Norwegian Consumer Agency (Forbrukertilsynet) saying it believed Norrøna was “breaking the law” through its marketing claims, which were based on the Higg Index.

Last autumn, the SAC said it was continuing to explore ways to communicate environmental information to consumers after Forbrukertilsynet indicated claims in general, and based on Higg data, must be sufficiently documented and qualified.

The SAC says the Higg Index continues to play a vital role in measuring and understanding the industry’s impact and it made the decision in 2022 to evolve the suite of tools.

“The development of the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0 and the major revision of the Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM) have improved the relevance of the tools in today’s landscape as the industry continues to evolve. The Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) had one of its largest updates to date, with the addition of more than 20 new materials and processes, a new material category for leather alternatives, and more.

“An independent third-party expert review of the Higg Index is being carried out to ensure continuous improvement of the suite of tools. The SAC is working with KPMG to coordinate the project, including the recruitment of three panels of independent experts, and is aiming to share findings in the coming months.”

Other highlights from SAC annual report

A growing community: In the past two years, the SAC has seen its largest growth in over a decade, with over 280 members from more than 33 countries. Today, more than 21,000 organisations around the world use the Higg Index, making it the most widely adopted suite of tools in the industry for measuring impact.

Driving decarbonisation: The SAC launched its Decarbonization Program in December 2022, aimed at supporting and driving the adoption of science-based targets (SBTs) and urgent emissions reduction. Through initiatives like Peer-to-Peer Learning Groups and training, the SAC has been fostering collaborative action, knowledge sharing, and concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As of 2022, 46% of SAC members have set or begun the process of setting SBTs.

Deepened partnerships and collaborative action: In November of 2022, nearly 500 representatives from the industry came together for the SAC Annual Meeting in Singapore. The location was selected to recognise the critical role the APAC region plays in driving and sustaining the industry and to highlight the importance of engaging stakeholders from the global south who must have an active voice in co-creating industry solutions.

“The past year has underscored the narrowing window of time we have to avoid the irreversible effects of climate change,” the report concludes. “It is clear that the time for accelerated action is now. We have made significant progress through efforts like the launch of our Decarbonization Program, the enhancement of the Higg Index suite of tools, and the growth of our membership and partnerships.

“However, we must recognise that the magnitude of the challenges we face requires us to collaborate more intentionally, and act with a greater sense of urgency and unity than ever before. Together, we have the power to make a lasting impact and create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.”