You may not know it by the end result – gorgeous, seasonal temptations beckoning to consumers from shop windows — but behind the scenes, the apparel industry is often defined by hurdles. Every day, manufacturers, brands, and retailers struggle against language barriers, cultural differences, trans-Pacific time zones, and miscommunications about orders on tight deadlines. This is all part of the demand to produce apparel for the global market. For factories, these challenges are frequently compounded by the fear of losing the business of leading brands and retailers if strict demands cannot be met.
At the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we value partnership and collaboration, and depend on these values to move the industry forward. This month, we introduced a new Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM), a tool whose improvements were more than two years in the making. Our updated Higg Index tool offers a global standard for measuring sustainability at apparel, footwear, and textile factories, worldwide. It measures water use, gas emissions, waste management, and chemicals management to assess and benchmark sustainable manufacturing.
Perhaps above all, Higg FEM breaks down the silos that have traditionally defined the apparel industry. This new tool, like all the tools in the Higg Index suite, enables open, honest conversation about facility performance so that value chain partners can collaborate with one another rather than through the top-down approach that has characterized the industry for centuries.
The improved tool encourages collaboration among brands, retailers, and manufacturers on a global scale. Eight thousand businesses already use the tool because the improved Higg FEM creates the transparency our industry needs. It helps businesses understand each other and facilitates improvements at factories year over year. Thanks to its trusted analytics, it also significantly reduces audit fatigue. No other tool does all this. And any factory in the world can easily use Higg FEM.
The Higg FEM is part of a broader set of tools that measure retailers, brands, facilities, materials, and products. Our tools measure many different stages of the value chain and allow actors throughout it to improve. While Higg FEM is a critical tool for improvement, we recognize that responsibility for improvement lies throughout the chain when actors utilize the entire Higg toolset.
To promote our highly-anticipated release of Higg FEM, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition recently launched a new campaign, Link by Link, to further unite the value chain on a global scale. Our goal is for 20,000 facilities and 400 brands to register to use the Higg FEM by the end of 2018. If we work together to meet this goal, we can achieve the transformative change we know is possible for our industry. Members of the SAC may compete in the marketplace, but they all value the importance of manufacturing their products responsibly. Using the Higg Index makes this possible.
Learn More about Higg Facility Tools
Use Higg Index Facility tools to collaborate with your value chain.
Developed by the SAC’s 200-plus members, the improved web-based Higg FEM introduces questions tailored to a business’ needs. Water consumption, gas emissions, and chemicals management are just three of the (new?) areas assessed. Earlier versions of the tool have already saved businesses millions of dollars, while simultaneously enabling facilities to reduce negative environmental impacts, and make improvements every year.
Upon completing the Higg FEM self-assessment online, factories can, with the click of a button, share their results with their peers and business partners. The tool creates a dialog that will help the industry collectively improve year over year. We have already seen such transparency encourage collaboration between facilities and suppliers on a small scale — now we want to expand it globally.
Our industry is at a tipping point, and we have the opportunity to meaningfully change it through this standardized and trusted system of measurement. Let’s unite the value chain and empower the factories upon whom we all depend to produce apparel, footwear, and textiles. If we champion them, listen to them, and support them, we can achieve transformative change.