the sac blog

Introducing Higg Brand & Retail Foundations: A Reliable Sustainability Assessment Tool for Companies at the Beginning of their Sustainability Journey

March 9, 2022


This month, we launched Higg Brand & Retail Foundations, a shorter, streamlined version of our main Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM). Here, we speak to our Director of the Higg Brand & Retail Program, Maravillas Rodriguez-Zarco about the new tool, and how it can serve a broader audience in the industry.


What is the purpose of Brand & Retail Foundations?

The main use case for Brand & Retail Foundations is third-party retailers that need to assess the performance of non-SAC member companies in a more accessible way, and ensure that quality data is produced. For non-member companies that don’t necessarily have the bandwidth and/or capabilities to complete a full length Higg BRM assessment, this tool will provide an on-ramp to enter the greater Higg ecosystem. 

Brand & Retail Foundations is designed to provide a reliable sustainability assessment for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME), as well as companies who are at the very start of their sustainability journey. Its purpose is to measure their current practices throughout their value chain, and identify areas of improvement.


Who is Brand & Retail Foundations for? Who can use it, and why should they opt to do so?

Smaller companies often don’t have the bandwidth or resources to develop a fully established sustainability or social responsibility strategy, and many don’t know where to start. We understand that creating these strategies can be incredibly daunting at first, and the main BRM tool would be too overwhelming for them to complete. So, Brand & Retail Foundations is where they can start. It assesses basic levels of corporate sustainability practices, so when you use it, you can cover the foundational building blocks that will allow you to create a roadmap for your goals.

For bigger companies like third-party retailers, Brand & Retail Foundations can be used to assess their SME brand partners to ensure that they are meeting the company’s sustainability standards. It makes it a lot easier for the SME (especially those who are not SAC members) to complete this request, and thus be able to sell on a retailer’s platform. 

Finally, we expect to have additional use cases and expand the scope of the BRM evaluation. Brand & Retail Foundations will also be open to:

  • Brands that need to assess the performance of their franchises
  • Licensors that want to assess their licensees 
  • Brands that want to assess their wholesale customers and/or their licensees


How was the methodology for Brand & Retail Foundations built, and who was involved in the collaboration process?

The tool features a subset of questions derived from the full BRM that defines the SAC’s minimum level of expectations on corporate responsibility practices for brands and retailers. We co-created this tool with our members who were part of our Member Expert Team (MET) with the goal of driving collective action in the industry. 

In this streamlined questionnaire, we (the SAC), alongside our MET, meticulously curated which questions would be considered critical. We chose questions that would allow the user to identify the foundational building blocks for a sustainability strategy. Like the full BRM, it covers the same sections, but with fewer questions (which cover the absolute essentials). 

In the full BRM, the questions are ranked in order of importance (critical and level 1 being the highest, and level 3 being the lowest). Brand & Retail Foundations only includes critical and level 1 questions, along with a few level 2 questions to be able to dive deeper into certain impact areas. 

Additionally, like the full BRM, each life cycle stage is also represented: Distribution Centers, Management Systems, Offices, Packaging, Product, Stores, Supply Chain: Product & Textiles, Transportation, Use & End of Use.


What value does it offer to the industry at large, and how does it facilitate the scale of environmental and social progress in the industry?

Essentially, because Brand & Retail Foundations is a more accessible tool, it can be widely adopted and scaled across the industry. It gives retailers greater visibility to assess all of their brand partners. If a retailer has a sustainability target, this tool will allow them to assess which brands are a match for their goals. For smaller companies, Brand & Retail Foundations is far less overwhelming, and gives them a starting point to create a strategy to improve sustainability performance. Any small business can be assessed with Brand & Retail Foundations.


How will Brand & Retail Foundations evolve in the near future?

Any updates we do with the full BRM will also be done with Brand & Retail Foundations. This means that we will always ensure that we include the foundational level of the main tool. Right now, Brand & Retail Foundations doesn’t have a verification process, but we will enable that in 2023. While Brand & Retail Foundations won’t have scoring or benchmarking like the main BRM, it still allows you to measure whether you are progressing or not.


Want to learn more about Brand & Retail Foundations? Login to the Higg platform.