The Sustainable Apparel Coalition Rebrands to Cascale, Expands Efforts: ‘A Consumer Goods Industry That Gives Back More Than It Takes’


The Sustainable Apparel Coalition has announced a rebrand, now going by Cascale, while continuing its mission to foster equitable and restorative business practices across the consumer goods sector.

Cascale’s name change from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition follows a longstanding controversy over its measurement tools, which critics say made greenwashing easier for fast fashion giants using the tool. The global nonprofit alliance, with more than 300 affiliates including retailers, brands, manufacturers, governments, academics, and NGOs, says it is still dedicated to catalyzing large-scale impact and contributing positively to both the planet and its inhabitants as its former coalition.

The rebranding introduces a new identity for the alliance, with “Cascale” symbolizing a reverse of “SAC” and incorporating “CA” for collective action and “scale” to denote its ambitious goals. The logo reflects the organization’s commitment to its three member categories and external stakeholders, essential for advancing a unified strategy announced in September 2023.

Cascale’s sustainability goals

Under its new banner, Cascale continues to leverage the Higg Index, a suite of tools developed for the apparel, footwear, and now broader consumer goods industries to measure and improve their social and environmental impact. Originating from a collaboration between Walmart and Patagonia in 2009, the Higg Index has become a cornerstone for over 24,000 users annually, facilitating improved benchmarking and proactive sustainability efforts.

“Cascale’s vision reflects my mission to inspire responsible businesses that commit to transparency and benefit people and the planet,” Cascale co-founder Rick Ridgeway said in a statement.

“Its enduring collaborative spirit and unwavering commitment to sustainability has delivered tremendous impact – but we still have work to do, together. As Cascale evolves to address the needs of a broader scope of consumer goods beyond apparel and footwear, I’m proud to celebrate this new vision of an organization that is close to my heart.”

Everlane puffer.
Cascale member label Everlane | Courtesy

Cascale’s redefined focus encompasses a range of impact programs centered on combating climate change, ensuring fair work for all, and promoting a nature-positive future. These initiatives aim to guide members from action to impact, with notable efforts like the Decarbonization Program targeting a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Cascale also emphasizes the importance of science-based targets (SBTs) for its corporate members, with more than half already committing to these goals by the end of 2023. The alliance says it is committed to fostering partnerships across the industry, emphasizing that collaboration is the new leadership paradigm. Cascale works alongside various organizations and initiatives, including the Apparel Alliance, the Social & Labor Convergence Program, and the Policy Hub, to drive systemic change and catalyze impact at scale.

Andrew Martin, Cascale’s executive vice president, highlighted the organization’s ambition to extend its influence beyond apparel and footwear, aiming to shape a consumer goods industry that positively contributes to the planet and society. “Together, we are seeking to shape a consumer goods industry that gives back more than it takes to the planet and its people,” Martin stated, underscoring the collective action at the heart of Cascale’s mission.

The rebrand follows an allegation from a consumer watchdog group in Norway in 2022, which said the Higg Materials Sustainability Index was problematic as its consumer-facing labels such as “credible and trusted” could be misleading. The allegations were confirmed in a third-party investigation last year. Cascale responded by launching the Higg Facility Environmental Module 4.0, a new tool it says improves data accuracy.

B Corp scrutiny

Cascale isn’t the only organization facing backlash over sustainability accreditations. The B Corporation certification, recognized by a prominent “B” on products in more than 80 countries, marks for-profit entities that meet high social and environmental benchmarks set by the U.S.-based nonprofit B Lab Global. This label, used by more than 8,000 global brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, and The Body Shop, is also facing increasing scrutiny. Critics argue the certification process may overlook deeper issues, thus risking the label’s integrity as a genuine marker of corporate responsibility.

Patagonia backpack.
Courtesy Patagonia

In late January, B Lab announced an investigation into four Havas media agencies’ B Corp status after the agencies secured a significant contract with Shell, sparking debate within the B Corp community, particularly among 26 B Corp ad firms allied with Clean Creatives. This incident highlights ongoing concerns over the certification’s credibility, especially since the launch of B Lab’s B Movement Builders program in 2020, which targets large public companies.

Controversy further escalated with Nespresso’s B Corp certification in 2022, drawing criticism for its “abysmal track record on human rights.” This situation underscores a broader issue: the reliance on self-reported assessments for certification. Matthew Cotton, a professor at Teesside University, U.K., emphasizes that this approach allows companies to select easily achievable sustainability goals over more impactful actions, potentially misleading consumers. “They are persuaded by the B Corp stamp of approval to buy products that wouldn’t meet their personal ethical standards,” Cotton said, suggesting that the certification could inadvertently contribute to greenwashing rather than preventing it.

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