On March 1, 2011 the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) [http://www.apparelcoalition.org/about_us ], which includes Nike and Levi's among the nearly 30 manufacturers and retailers as well as non-profits, academics and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced that have created an industry-wide index to evaluate apparel products' environmental impact. The Apparel Index is meant to be a database of scores assigned to all the players in the life cycle of a garment - cotton growers, synthetic fabric makers, dye suppliers, textile mill owners, as well as packagers, shippers, retailers and consumers - based on a variety of social and environmental measures like water and land use, energy efficiency, waste production, chemical use, greenhouse gases and labor practices. A clothing company designer could then use the tool to select materials and suppliers, computing an overall sustainability score based on industry standards. The Apparel Index will draws on previous efforts by members, including the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index [www.outdoorindustry.org ] and Nike's Environmental Apparel Design [http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/11/30/nike-releases-environmental-apparel-design-tool/ ] , unveiled late last year. The Index aims to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel products sold around the world.
SAC members have already drawn up Version 1.0 of their Apparel Index, with beta testing by members and their suppliers due to begin in April. Version 1.0 uses indicators that span the entire apparel life cycle, including materials, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, use and end of life. Its environmental impact categories include energy, greenhouse gases, water quality, water use, chemistry and toxics, waste, land use and air emissions. The Apparel Index will not be a consumer-facing rating in the short term, because of the complexity of calculating a single numeric score, but instead, it will be used to drive improvements. The index will be developed with the expectation that customer-facing scoring will be used in the future, and it will be fully transparent to encourage broad, global adoption.