Fashion has a new product tag to mark sustainability measures

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An industry-wide product tag to identify garments made with sustainable practices is coming. The impact index, created by the Responsible Business Coalition, Accenture and Vogue, and developed with leading fashion brands and retailers including Saks, Selfridges, Capri Holdings and Ralph Lauren, is intended to make it easier for brands to communicate their efforts with customers and ultimately accelerate industry progress in sustainability as a whole.

The digital logo will appear on apparel product websites – it may eventually extend to physical product labels – and display, once a person clicks on it, what environmental or ethical criteria the garment meets. The initial categories are raw materials, animal welfare, chemical use, and education and empowerment, but these are likely to expand. The impact index seeks to fill in the gaps in three main areas: defining and communicating sustainability at the level of each product; bring clarity to the crowded certification landscape; and establish effective methods of data collection across the industry. It will launch at the end of next year, but is currently being driven by a big brand and a big retailer.

More than a dozen companies participated in the development of the index, including Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Bonobos, Capri Holdings, J.Crew, JCPenney, Kenneth Cole, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, PVH, Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges & Co., Shinola, Macy’s, Gap, Tapestry, Eileen Fisher, Ralph Lauren and VF Corporation. The aim is not to endorse specific products or brands, but to increase transparency with consumers and enable them to make more informed decisions, explains Frank Zambrelli, executive director of the Responsible Business Coalition at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University.

“It’s not a green light or a red light. It is simply a platform. No one says it’s a better skirt than this; we just say, “This skirt was produced that way, with these certifications.”

Providing information to consumers is part of the solution, says Cara Smyth, Managing Director and Global Head of Sustainability for Accenture’s Retail Group. “Every dollar is like a vote. The more consumers make their purchasing decisions on information about environmental and social issues, the more the industry reacts.

The digital logo will appear on apparel product websites and could eventually extend to physical product labels.

Fernando Dias de Souza for the impact index

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