Retail Giants join forces on Sustainable Apparel
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Retail Giants are now determined to embrace the environment. Levi’s has come out with designer jeans manufactured out of used plastic bottles. Nike has unveiled knitted sneakers that reduce manufacturing waste by 88 percent. A new research shows an increasing pool of global consumers, who are demanding that mainstream brands become sustainable. Green shoppers want green producers.


Thinking about the future

Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a trade group of several companies including Levi’s and Nike with interests in the apparel industry, came up with a sustainability initiative called the Higg Index, which will empower the industry to determine the sustainability of products. The initiative Higg index covers three main areas–brand, product, and facility and is focused on giving the c a way to assess the sustainability of any specific product throughout the supply chain.

“It’s not about offering a niche green product," said Jonathan Kirby, VP of global men's design for Levi Strauss. “We’re working to build sustainability into everything—from the cotton fields to our supply chain, to our stores, to our designs across product lines.” Each pair of Levi’s Waste<Less collection of jeans, introduced in 2012, is made from about eight recycled plastic bottles, Kirby said. This is what producers should implement in their production if wish to be referred as green ones.

Nike is resolute to design products and influence their supply chain to create less waste and protect the interest of sports worldwide.  Nike is making efforts since 1990’s to cut down its environment footprint by following several steps like recycling shoes, phasing out sulphur hexafluoride and manufacturing sports accessories from waste and working along with different NGOs. Nike had also introduced a product line “Considered” in 2005 which urges on designing the products on the principles of sustainability. Last year Nike debuted with the FlyKnit shoes which are marketed as a high-tech advancement using yarn instead of leather uppers for a better fit and a reduction in waste.

Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) database, which the company has been using for many years to better the sustainability of its products, underlies the product constituent of the initiative Higg Index.  Coalition is in discussions with Levi’s to consolidate the metrics of that company’s life-cycle assessment tool Evaluate for a second phase of the Higg. Ultimately Higg ratings will translate to consumer labels, but the Coalition is being attentive to test the index, accumulate data, and refine the system before delving into anything consumer-facing.

As per a 2013 survey by brand consultancy BBMG, an increasing number of shoppers are seeing green so of course there is big demand on green producers.  Globally a third of consumers view style, status and environmentalism as entwined. These consumers love shopping and vehemently desire responsible consumption. “For them, sustainability has changed from being ‘the right thing to do’ to being ‘the cool thing to do”, said Raphael Bemporad, BBMG’s chief strategy officer.


It’s all about the right tool

At present the tool is directed towards assessing the sustainability of existing products, but there are plans to roll out a tool that could be combined into design and manufacturing processes. A kind of tool designed to help ascertain the potential impacts of several decisions. With the tool like that companies would be able to design more sustainable products. Having that kind of information available at the beginning of the process will also do a lot for improved products and for business efficiencies. Paul Dillinger, senior director of global design for Levi’s also explained a desire for a mentioned tool; “As designers we only know what we know and so often the decisions we make about what we design and the materials we use are made absent of understanding the impacts of those choices. With tools like these, we have the opportunity to really understand at the front end of the design process what the potential for the material is, not just for sustainability but also for versatility” he said.

Additionally to gradually adding more functionality and a consumer-facing label to the Higg Index, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition wants to add more high-end fashion companies to its membership roster in the coming years. This would distinguish it from virtually every other sustainability tool in the apparel industry.


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