A new sustainability index could do for clothing and shoes what the federal Energy Star rating does for electronics and appliances, according to the Wall Street Journal. A consortium of 100 major apparel brands and retailers—including Levi Strauss, Nike, and Target—have created a software tool that measures the carbon footprint of their products, from harvesting raw materials to end-of-life disposal.

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MADE TO MEASURE

Set to debut in August at the Outdoor Retailer Expo in Salt Lake City, the Eco Index is designed to help manufacturers examine the ecological and human-rights impacts of their products, as well as to make smarter, more sustainably sound choices. Although the Eco Index isn’t ready for public consumption just yet, it could eventually be used as a comparison tool for shoppers to determine if, say, Keds are greener than Vans.

Unsurprisingly, no luxury companies are involved thus far. Early adopters of the program lean on the outdoorsy end of the spectrum: Adidas, Timberland, Patagonia, REI, Columbia Sportswear, and Brooks Sports are typical of the companies represented.

The Eco Index software works by asking manufacturers a series of questions about their environmental practices.

The Eco Index software works by asking manufacturers a series of questions about their environmental and labor practices, many of which require answers from their suppliers. From the information provided, the application generates a grade that represents a percentage of a perfect score.

Companies can also pose hypothetical scenarios to determine how to improve their score. When Brooks’ shoeboxes, for instance, received an approximate score of 40 percent, the footwear maker set out to improve its packaging by removing the ineffective silica bags and tissue-paper stuffing. Bonus: The retooled packaging lowered Brooks’ costs by 38 percent.

+ Outdoor Industry Eco Working Group