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Icebreaker to test next version of Eco Index (new apparel tool)
Sep '11
Icebreaker, the New Zealand outdoor merino wool apparel company whose United States headquarters and Global Design Studio are based in Portland, Oregon, has been chosen along with four other Portland-area brands to test the next phase of the Eco Index, an innovative online tool to benchmark and measure the environmental impact of apparel, footwear and gear products.

In development since 2007 by member companies of Outdoor Industry Association, the Boulder, Colo.-based trade group, the Eco Index was launched to the outdoor industry last year. It is an open-source environmental impact assessment tool that provides a common language and framework to assess product-level sustainability throughout the supply chain. The Eco Index identifies areas for improvement and provides guidance to help companies make informed sourcing and product life cycle decisions.

“The Eco Index is a perfect extension of Icebreaker's demonstrated commitment to environmental responsibility and transparency through our own traceability program, Baacode,” said Lisa Thompson, president of Icebreaker United States operations. “We know we have lots to learn and we hope this tool can guide us on our journey to become one of the cleanest clothing companies in the world.”

The Eco Index uses environmental guidelines, environmental performance indicators and environmental footprint metrics to assess the impacts within six product life cycle stages: Materials; Packaging; Product Manufacturing and Assembly; Transport and Distribution; Use and Service; and End of Life.

In the project's next phase, Icebreaker and four other brands will put the next version of the Eco Index, the “Apparel Tool,” to the test in an actual work environment for the first time. The new Apparel Tool, which has been developed jointly by the OIA Eco Working Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, uses the Eco Index framework and content as its foundation, while also incorporating Nike's Materials Assessment Tool – providing the functionality for product designers and developers to begin making data-driven materials sourcing choices to reduce environmental impact. Additional index modules for footwear and equipment are also under development.

The five Portland companies will receive customized training and other resources to use the current prototype tool. Testing of the new Apparel Index is funded by a $25,000 grant from the Portland Development Commission, which was matched by Outdoor Industry Association. PDC and OIA hope that the PDC grant program will serve as a model for providing similar index implementation support to companies in other cities.

Launched in 1994, Icebreaker was the first company in the world to develop a merino fiber layering system for the outdoors. It was also the first outdoor apparel company in the world to source merino directly from growers, a system it began in 1997. The Icebreaker apparel system includes underwear, mid layer garments, outerwear, socks and accessories. There are outdoor, technical and lifestyle categories, each with its own specific fabrics and design details. Icebreaker is sold in more than 3,000 stores in 37 countries.

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