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Higg Index Gets Updated

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition's index is a sustainability measurement tool for the industry's supply chain.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition today is unveiling an updated version of the Higg Index, a sustainability measurement tool for the industry’s supply chain, adding an assessment tool for social and labor indicators for the first time, and a new online platform that makes it easier for companies to share information.

This story first appeared in the December 11, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Higg Index 2.0 features an online platform developed by Schneider Electric, adding the ability to share users’ sustainability data, increase accuracy and add measurability for new materials and processes, allowing for greater transparency and validation, noted Jason Kibbey, executive director of the SAC, a trade association comprised of brands, retailers, manufacturers, government and nongovernmental organizations and academic experts. SAC represents more than a third of the global apparel and footwear market.

“We would like to encourage a conversation so there’s a way for the brands to share information with their manufacturers about the decisions they make that might impact environmental or social performance,” Kibbey said. “Right now…the information is controlled by the company and they can share it with whomever they like, just like social media. We just get the benchmark aggregate information. This is a big step in the right direction on transparency. The next step is for the information to be shared more broadly.”

Kibbey noted it is not ready for labeling as a certification because that would require third-party assessment.

The Higg Index has also expanded its sustainability coverage by adding modules to assess social and labor impacts for manufacturers and brands. Higg Index 2.0 for the first time addresses footwear by adding a footwear brand module and allowing for sector facility assessment within it. Added and improved content in the index includes a Materials Sustainability Index Web tool, an apparel and footwear materials list released in June and since expanded to include sustainability metrics on 45 materials.

Also, content from the Chemicals Management Module, a joint project with the Outdoor Industry Association, served as a key input into the improvements made in the Higg Index 2.0 on chemicals management. Another new tool being beta tested allows companies to look at the environmental impact of a fabric or material.

The Higg Index was introduced in 2012 to better measure the comprehensive environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products, and since then has allowed more than 100 companies to identify opportunities to improve long-term sustainability. Kibbey said a longer-term goal for the coalition is to centralize sustainability standards.

“One of the reasons the Sustainable Apparel Coalition came together is that there are so many of these standards and seals out there — in the hundreds — and a lot of them are very good and have helped companies access the environmental and social impact of their products, but it can be daunting and confusing even for sustainability professionals,” he said. “So we’re trying to look more holistically at the product overall and offer one type of assessment that can give that type of understanding. It’s fair to say that we are trying to streamline the myriad of different standards out there and become a standard that everyone in the industry recognizes.”

The Higg Index 2.0 is available for industry review and use at apparelcoalition.org/higgindex.