Last summer, the Outdoor Industry Association, through its Eco Working Group, released a beta version of the Eco Index, a tool by which apparel and gear makers could measure the environmental impacts created by their products. The tool quickly attracted the attention of many firms outside the outdoor industry. And today, many of the firms behind the Eco Index (including Patagonia and Timberland) have partnered with NGOs and academics in announcing the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which aims to create metrics and standards that apparel companies across sectors can access.
The group's goals are to help manufacturers measure the harm linked to their products, using five categories: water use/quality; energy use/greenhouse gases; waste; chemicals/toxicity; social/labor. Its tool, dubbed Version 1.0 Apparel Index, was built using the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index, as well as Nike's internal Apparel Environmental Design Tool, as models.
The intent is to create a tool that manufacuturers can use for internal efforts, toward designing, sourcing, shipping and recycling their apparel products with the environment in mind. However, a longer-term goal is to create a labelling system that consumers will be able to use in order to help guide their buying decisions.