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How standardised data helps drive sustainability for apparel

July 13, 2021

In this episode of Serai Spotlight, we talked with Amina Razvi, the Executive Director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, about standardised data and supply chain transparency. How can brands understand the social and environmental performance along the value chain? What can companies gain from recognising a single assessment across the apparel industry? A full transcript follows.


Can you tell us a bit about the SAC and the initiatives that you run?

 

Amina Razvi: Hi there, my name is Amina Razvi. I'm the Executive Director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is a global multi-stakeholder nonprofit of over 250 members working to reduce environmental impact and promote social justice throughout the global value chain. Our members are leading apparel footwear textile brands, retailers, manufacturers, service providers, NGOs, nonprofits and academics. We have headquarters in San Francisco, Hong Kong and Amsterdam. We formed the SAC and develop the Higg index because we realise that, as an industry, we weren't making the kind of progress that we wanted to see fast enough towards addressing systemic issues. Last month we launched the Higg transparency programme in partnership with our tech partner Higg, The new programme will allow companies to share publicly sustainability performance information on a product's environmental impact, starting with material content. As consumers, stakeholders, government's demand increasing responsibility by companies, transparent communication is becoming important. It's an exciting first step towards consistency and transparency, not only for our organisation and for our members, but for the industry as a whole.

 

What are the most important challenges our industry is facing in terms of sustainability today?


Amina Razvi: One of the root challenges that our industry faces is the lack of standardised data that can inform insights and collective action. There's absolutely no shortage of solutions to address the problems in our industry, but what we lack is clear credible data that's comparable across the industry to know what we need to be working on and where. And if we really want to achieve exponential impacts, we need standardised tools, we need to drive collective action, and we need solid credible data that we can build upon.

Our work at the SAC has been helping to standardise sustainability performance so that we can go deeper into the value chain by leveraging credible data and technology. 


What made you want to shift from working on sustainability in a retailer (GAP) to a more overarching coalition?

 

Amina Razvi: The enormity of the challenges that our industry faces means that it will take everyone working together across the value chain to make meaningful progress. My time at Gap Inc, which was a founding member of the SAC, made me realise the enormity of these issues as well as the opportunities that companies have to really do something about it, and to drive positive impact across the world. 


What are the benefits for brands, retailers, and manufacturers for joining SAC?

 

Amina Razvi: Manufacturers make up about 30% of the SAC membership and we work with them to help develop and shape the tools that measure and improve sustainability performance, as well as communicate those initiatives to their customers. Manufacturers often join the SAC to improve their performance using the index suite of tools. Sharing those results with customers also allows manufacturers to focus on making cost savings improvements. As more and more supply chain partners use the Higg Index brands and retailers are increasingly recognising this effectiveness of a single assessment, demonstrating progress on these sustainability performance helps manufacturers, win new contracts, build on existing business. And it also creates valuable networking opportunities which allows manufacturers to showcase their abilities to brands and retailers and differentiate themselves within the marketplace. 


What are you optimistic about for the future of the apparel industry?


Amina Razvi: I'm inspired by the hard work and the dedication that I see from our team and our members and the industry at large, the passion, the community, the collaborative spirit is what has gotten us here over the past 10 years. I was excited and very honoured to have the SAC’s decade of collaborative work recognised with an inaugural Eco-Steward of the Year Award from the American Apparel and Footwear Association this year. In addition, I'm also really inspired by the younger generation, when we look at young activists like Greta Thornburg or the Sunrise Movement, we see these young leaders who are really standing up for their future and advocating for the kind of change that they want to see in the world. And I think it's incredibly important for those of us who do this work in this space to be listening to these young leaders and to be championing not only their efforts, but also helping to create a more sustainable future for everyone.


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