On October 13, 2016, AmCham hosted its second session of the CSR Executive Dialogue Series with a discussion on current CSR and sustainability trends within the apparel industry. Guest speakers included Scott Miller, director of business development at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), Sun Wei, CEO of Hangzhou Sino-Tytex Weaving Co. Ltd, and Liang Xiaohui, deputy chief economist at National Textile Information Centre. Lu Jianzhong, global partner at Brunswick Group, moderated the event.
Scott Miller described the “Higg Index” as the core tool of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Because of auditing fatigues plaguing the textile industry in the past, in 2009 Patagonia and Walmart had a mission to develop a universal approach to measure sustainability—that was how the Sustainable Apparel Coalition came to be. Miller seeks to use the “[Higg Index] as a globally trusted industry standard for measuring and improving sustainability.” The Higg Index is only applicable to the apparel, footwear, and textile industry. The index is a diverse set of supply chain tools; it measures sustainability online by having companies complete assessments (these assessments are standardized). The Higg Index is designed to promote improvement simply by going through it. Miller says that the Higg Index is a reflection of the industry and is intended to be diverse. “The voice of the entire supply chain coupled with more technical expertise, including NGOs and governments, provided the inputs that made the Higg Index what it is today,” he said.
Sun Wei’s Hangzhou Sino-Tytex Weaving Co. has produced over 20 million meters of top dye fabric since 2010—top dye fabric is considered a sustainable method of dying apparel. The company aims to provide opportunities for more material and intellectual growth to contribute to the advancement of green fashion. “Sustainability means less human impact on our planet,” said Sun. He believes that all business activities are demand oriented, and therefore sustainability isn’t in the fault of the manufacturers, but rather consumers aren’t aware of sustainability in fashion. Sun believes that the sustainable mind is the key to sustainable business—“the day we achieve good sustainable business is the day we convince all people in the textile industry, as well as the consumers, that sustainable is good, important and affordable.”
During the Q&A session, participants raised topics such as consumer awareness on sustainability, recycling ‘end-waste’ of apparel products, and the criteria and targets companies have used to achieve their sustainability goals. Liang Xiaohui gave his input on what he believes was the driving force for CSR and sustainability—companies were driven by the agent of consumers. Both Miller and Sun agreed that consumers may be for or indifferent to sustainability. For Miller, the Higg Index, though not useful for consumers for the time being, will feed into what will ultimately be used by consumers. Sun mentioned that sustainability is found through self-awareness either from individuals or companies. Once this self-awareness is identified, implementing sustainability is only a matter of execution.