Another industry-led sustainability tool has entered the mix.
Meet “Impact Index,” a product framework launched Thursday vying to be “the solution” for sustainability information. Eventually, the framework will inspire a consumer-facing label.
The Impact Index framework comes from the efforts of more than 30 brands and retailers, spearheaded by Accenture, the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business and Vogue.
It aims to “define the sustainability elements that are important to consumers and [communicate] them effectively,” while creating industry alignment on certifications and data collection standardization across the value chain, per a report accompanying the announcement.
Brands supporting the research include Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Bonobos, Capri Holdings, J.Crew/Madewell, J.C. Penney, Kenneth Cole, Neiman Marcus Group, Nordstrom, PVH Corp., Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges & Co., Shinola, Macy’s, Gap, Tapestry, Eileen Fisher, Kohl’s, Ralph Lauren and VF Corp. (Of the 30 supporting brands, only 19 chose to be shared publicly).
Championing the collective efforts, Cara Smyth, who leads Accenture’s ESG efforts in Responsible Retail said, “The new conversation brands and retailers are having with customers is a sea change moment.”
Per Accenture’s Consumer Pulse Survey, as many as 63 percent of consumers look at a garment’s label for sustainability information. Vogue consumer interviews of more than 1,000 consumers separately underpinned the Impact Index research, including a series of site interactions.
“What we have now underway is a proof-of-concept with major brands and major retailers,” said Frank Zambrelli, executive director of the Responsible Business Coalition.
Inside the Impact Index framework are a series of core recommendations on the product itself and supplementary recommendations.
Built on the work of existing NGOs like Textile Exchange and the Global Organic Textile Standard, the Impact Index recognizes raw materials, animal welfare, chemical usage and education empowerment among its core categories, which will “power” the label. Additionally, the categories align with frameworks such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Boards frameworks from the Value Reporting Foundation.
Company efforts on sustainability goals, philanthropy and D&I are also included in the Impact Index. End of use is propped up as a must-have element, including brand take-back programs and end-of-life disposal recommendations (across donation, resale, recycle).
“This effort is the manifestation of collective action — CEOs convening to outline critical challenges, allowing us to drive action across stakeholder groups to unify around concrete solutions that can finally scale across the industry,” Zambrelli said, adding that the Index is a “good place to start,” “serving as an aggregation of things that work really well,” and with existing approval. “Nobody has any contentions with GOTS.”
While not listed as a partner in the report, Zambrelli said the organizations are “absolutely [involved] and will be,” clarifying that the SAC works together with the RBC under Fashion Conveners, a global coalition that also counts the the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, Textile Exchange and Apparel Impact Institute among its cohort. As WWD reported, Fashion Conveners launched with the aim of connecting complementary frameworks, like the Higg Facility Environmental Module and Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemical’s Roadmap to Zero program.
Zambrelli’s hope is that the SAC provides the “next layer of fortifying” for the Impact Index, and says talks are planned for further alignment.
This first iteration of the framework and corresponding label are currently under pilot and expected to be available in early 2022 for inclusion on websites, product packaging and/or directly on products.
Asked whether the Index (including the consumer-facing tools) will cost anything, Zambrelli said: “I hope not ever…Nobody needs to own this but somebody needs to manage it.” To manage it there will be a governing secretariat which is currently “in formation” as stakeholders are solidified.