The focus of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is to create and implement an index to measure the environmental and social performance of apparel and footwear products.
With the creation of an apparel and footwear index, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition aims to accomplish the following goals:
- Understand and quantify sustainability impacts of apparel and footwear products
- Dramatically reduce redundancy in measuring sustainability in the apparel and footwear industries
- Drive business value through reducing risk and uncovering efficiency
- Create a common means to communicate sustainability to stakeholders
Where We Are: The Higg Index 1.0
The Higg Index 1.0 is primarily an indicator based tool for apparel that enables companies to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and product design choices. The Index asks practice-based, qualitative questions to gauge environmental sustainability performance and drive behavior for improvement. It is based largely on the Eco Index and Nike’s Apparel Environmental Design Tool, however it has been significantly enhanced through a pilot testing period.
The Higg Index 1.0 is a tool to help organizations standardize how they measure and evaluate environmental performance of apparel products across the supply chain at the brand, product and facility levels. It is:
- a self-assessment tool that enables rapid learning through identification of environmental sustainability hot spots and improvement opportunities;
- a starting point of engagement, education, and collaboration among stakeholders in advance of more rigorous assessment efforts.
The Higg Index 1.0 is a learning tool for both small and large companies to identify challenges and capture on-going improvement. It targets a spectrum of performance that allows beginners and leaders in environmental sustainability, regardless of company size, to identify opportunities.
The Higg Index 1.0 was developed for apparel products and environmental performance; however, future releases of The Higg Index will expand the scope to include footwear products and social and labor impact areas.
The Higg Index 1.0 is based on life-cycle thinking and spans the apparel life cycle (materials, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, use, and end-of-life). Retail activities are not included in The Higg Index 1.0 and will be considered for future releases.
Where We're Headed
The index will evolve and improve over time. Below are several areas of development:
- Scope: SAC is currently developing indicators that will increase the scope of the Higg Index to include:
- Footwear products;
- Social and labor impact areas.
- Metrics: Expand indicator-based Index to include quantitative data and metrics:
- In addition to asking “yes/no” questions, ask for data to support quantitative metrics that will help provide a more accurate picture of environmental performance (e.g., energy use data).
- Scoring: Improve scoring through a systematic review of scoring principles, their application to the Index and the data supporting point allocation. Improve packaging scoring through the use of the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI).
- Section weighting: Improve SAC suggested weights through a panel approach involving a larger group of stakeholders and a tailored multi-criteria analysis based approach to elicit weights. Align on one set of weights to enable consistent benchmarking and product comparison for business decisions and consumer-facing communications.
- Standards and certification equivalencies: Define and incorporate Index “equivalencies”:
- In order to simplify the usability of the Index and recognize investments that brands, facilities, and suppliers have made in key certifications or standards, SAC plans to evaluate these and determine where Index questions can be automatically filled in based on achievement of a certain certification or standard. For example, the Index may have a checkbox asking for a specific certification, and if checked it would auto-populate the corresponding questions in the Index.
- Verification of responses: SAC is considering developing a Higg Index verification process/protocol.
- Materials Sustainability Index (MSI): Define and implement a governance process and community engagement to improve the MSI scores and framework as more data, information and methodologies become available and/or evolve.