Two Women look through a clothing rack

Responsible Business Coalition Pilots Impact Index

What’s the story behind a piece of clothing? Who makes it, how is it made, and what types of materials are used? And what’s the easiest way to provide consumers with that information? Answering those questions are the main goals of a new Impact Index developed by the Gabelli School’s Responsible Business Coalition.

“The Impact Index came out of conversations with brand and retail CEOs wanting a framework to highlight ESG standards,” said Frank Zambrelli, the executive director of the coalition, which includes a network of executives, researchers, nonprofits, and educators. “Consumers have decided they want to know what they’re eating or putting on their body or investing in and the impact of those elements.”

The coalition worked in partnership with Accenture, a professional services company, 30 international brands and retailers, and Vogue magazine to develop a framework and label that brought together “what the consumers wanted, what the brands and retailers were able to provide, and what the science-based communities deemed to be important,” Zambrelli said.

The Impact Index aims to serve as an industry-wide label that lets consumers know what environmental or ethical criteria the piece of clothing meets. If the item meets one of the categories on the index, which currently includes ratings for raw materials, animal welfare, chemical usage, and education and empowerment, the article of clothing will receive an Impact Index logo.

When shopping online, consumers can click on the logo if they want to learn more, such as whether the product was made from Fair Trade organic cotton or has been certified as free from harmful substances and chemicals.

The framework and logo are part of an initial “proof of concept,” or pilot program, with a “major international clothing brand and a large national retailer,” Zambrelli said, which will allow the coalition to test the label and how it works, both for consumers and for the companies. Expanded pilots with additional brands and retailers will continue through the fall, rounding out the test phase.