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Coalition Aims To Make Apparel Industry 'Greener'
Vol. 795 
March 3, 2011

Leading retailers, clothing manufacturers, environmental groups and academics announced plans this week to form a new coalition aimed at lessening the environmental and social impact associated with producing apparel and footwear around the world. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) intends to develop improved sustainability strategies and an index to measure and evaluate "green" performance in the apparel industry. Evaluating and scoring businesses on things like worker conditions and water and chemical usage, the Apparel Index 1.0 will enable companies to measure their environmental and social impact, compare themselves to other companies and receive improvement strategies. 

To further the green mission, coalition members will devise plans to reduce chemical usage, lessen the apparel industry's water and industrial consumption and improve waste diversion. Concerned about the potential hazards industry employees face, the coalition intends to make the process of producing apparel transparent and get workplaces throughout the apparel world to adopt standards that lead to fair treatment of employees and safe working environments where none are exposed to toxic chemicals. "Over the past few years, the U.S. apparel and footwear industry has embraced sustainability as a key component to the way we do business," says Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. "The industry understands that collaboration and transparency are the best ways to reduce our industry's impact on the environment."

The SAC's 30 or so founding members include companies like Walmart, Target, J.C. Penney, Timberland and Nike. Other initial members of the coalition are Duke University, the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency and Verité, a labor rights group. The SAC could expand to 40 members by June. "Should the Sustainable Apparel Coalition succeed, its focus on improving supply chain performance could become a model for other industries," says Leon Kaye, editor of GreenGoPost.com, a website that focuses on the business side of sustainability. "More efficient, energy-saving and transparent supply chains not only reduce costs, but lessen the human costs that put too high of a price tag on what are often cheap clothes."

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