the sac blog

How Brands and Manufacturers are Using the Higg Facility Tools to Reach Their Ambitious Sustainability Goals (Part 2)

July 9, 2021


At the end of June, we kicked off our Higg Index Facility Tools Summit, featuring leading voices in the industry. Below, you’ll get snippets of summit highlights, and get a glimpse as to how companies such as VESTEX, Primark, Wal-Mart, L.L. Bean, EPIC Group, and more are using the Higg Facility Tools in their companies to meet their sustainability goals and ambitious, science-based targets. 


As the second half of this 2-part series, this blog features participants and users from the Americas and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region. Read on to get inspired on how the Higg Facility Tools can help you improve performance for the facilities in your value chain.


Speakers Include: 

  • Lisa Kretzberg, Supply Chain Sustainability Champion/Fabrics, W. L. Gore & Associates GmbH
  • Carlos Arias, President, VESTEX
  • Phil Townsend, Senior Technical Manager, Ethical Trade, Primark
  • Gerson Fajardo, Director of Sustainability, Quality Operations and Benchmarking, General Merchandise – Walmart
  • Ross Nova, Head of Global Compliance, L.L. Bean
  • Vidhura Ralapanawe, EVP, EPIC Group
  • Syeda Faiza Jamil, Corporate Responsibility & Communications GM, Artistic Milliners
  • Shelby Arnold, Sustainability and Customer Compliance Manager, Elevate Textiles
  • Mallory McConnell, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, PVH Corp.
  • Kathy Chao, Senior Manager, Global Compliance, Centric Brands


Higg Facility Tools Refer to: 

  • Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM)
  • Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (Higg FSLM) 

Learn more about these tools here.


The FEM really required a completely new level of transparency from us [that] we had not experienced before. But we worked quite closely with our brand customers, and we also did a lot of internal education. Our internal stakeholders quickly realized that the benefits really outweigh potential risks. So, by being more transparent, we can reduce duplicative work and reduce auditing fatigue. FEM is something that is really appreciated by many of our customers. We really hope that we can maintain this great exchange within the SAC between manufacturers and brands to make those tools industry benchmark tools so that it really satisfies the needs of all different stakeholders. – Lisa Kretzberg, W.L. Gore & Associates


We partner with major brands and retailers around the world to help unify standards for our industry. We look forward to working with the Higg FEM tools to make sure that the plans that work in Guatemala for global retail companies and brands can certainly be part of this important [global] movement going forward. – Carlos Arias, VESTEX


The scope of the FEM is branching out into other product areas of the manufacturing sector, so we’ve been piloting this with some of our suppliers in areas like beauty & cosmetics. So, we are gathering feedback and valuable lessons learned from those suppliers to see how applicable the FEM is. However, I think we can clearly see that it is adding value beyond the traditional boundaries of apparel and footwear. – Phil Townsend, PRIMARK


We’re looking forward to the development of the transparency program, where we will be able to rate the sustainability performance of a product and make it visible to our customers in a way that they can relate with, and make more informed purchasing decisions. – Gerson Fajardo, Walmart


First, the FEM will help you improve your scores and, most notably, it will help you improve your energy efficiency. Second, it is a great way to learn about sustainability. I will tell you that seven years ago, I barely knew anything about sustainability and my personal journey really started with the FEM. So, as you’re trying to educate your managers and your senior leaders, if you’re worried about how you translate all of this stuff into ‘corporate speak’ that will be understood, the FEM is a great tool to give yourself the education and communication techniques you need to communicate to senior leaders. – Ross Nova, L.L. Bean


The majority of brands have already endorsed the Higg FSLM tool. So for any manufacturer to not accept this, in reality, would be akin to allowing yourself to be left behind. This is actually making your life easy. It’s not making anything complicated. It’s just a transition phase that you are going through. Using the tool is a value addition for everybody. – Syeda Faiza Jamil, Artistic Milliners


Our goal is always to be a trusted partner to our customers which increasingly has required full transparency in environmental, chemical and social areas. The FEM brought us an improved level of environmental transparency to our customers. With these industry-standardized tools, such as the FEM and the FSLM, customers can gather information to support their own goals and compare suppliers when they are collecting the results. So with the FSLM, we expect to have the same customer-facing benefits as well as better insight into our own facility performance.  – Shelby Arnold, Elevate Textiles


A benefit that is sometimes overlooked is the empowerment that [these tools] bring to our supplier. All of the data that they must manage, control and maintain for later steps in the process. With the supplier taking ownership of the data collection through the self-assessment process, I think it helps them with sustainable engagement for the verification process in the long run. – Kathy Chao, Centric Brands


A really good opportunity for us to challenge ourselves about: What data are we collecting and why? What do we do with it? How are we using it to drive improvements? Do we really need it? And that then sparks broader policy conversations, about how do we make sure that we are continuing to evolve as an organization when it comes to things like social assessments and the way that we’re really looking at performance in our supply chain. So, the Higg has been a really good prompt for that kind of introspection. – Mallory McConnell, PVH Corp. 


There is a lot of work that is there, but that skill is not available in most countries in the world. The way I understand it, addressing climate change, addressing energy efficiency, requires a community. It cannot be done by consultants alone. It cannot be done by factories alone. You need skill-building across the country’s value chain and energy service providers.

As members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we have a huge opportunity to create value chain partnerships toward sustainability at the organizational level, national level and global level. – Vidhura Ralapanawe, EPIC Group


To learn more about the Higg Facility Tools and how it can help you manage, measure, and improve sustainability performance in your facilities, see here.