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SAN FRANCISCO – The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) will pause the use of consumer-facing Higg labels globally after the Norwegian authorities concluded that they were misleading to consumers. The SAC will halt the use of Higg Index Sustainability Profiles and the Higg Index Materials seal on products as it engages with the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) and other industry stakeholders.

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Apparel Insider understands the SAC will also seek to develop a broader public affairs strategy in light of the NCA notification and likely additional EU country challenges.

The SAC was left with little choice but to pause the use of Higg profiles as the decision by Norway would likely have set a precedent in other European countries. Brands continuing to use the profiles faced accusations of greenwashing given the decision in Norway.

Looking ahead, it is difficult to see how Higg profiles can survive without root and branch reform. Yet the SAC has shown a continued unwillingness to respond to critiques of the Higg MSI – the data from which is used to underpin these profiles.

The bigger picture is that one of the main reasons fashion retailers have got on board with the SAC is to display their sustainability credentials. Membership of the SAC is a public relations exercise which – in theory -provides brands with credibility.

With the furore around Higg profiles and the fact that it seems consumer-facing sustainability labels (another huge draw with SAC membership) are now consigned to the history books, the future for the SAC is uncertain.

The SAC was established as brands and retailers sought to self-regulate on environmental and sustainability issues. That was over a decade ago. In recent times, the regulatory picture has changed markedly and governments around the world are showing a growing appetite to bring in laws around environmental and sustainability issues.

This story will continue to develop.

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