Sustainable Apparel Coalition

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Introducing the New Higg Product Module: Designing with Sustainability and Circularity in Mind

June 15, 2021

More than ever, companies are under pressure to create more environmentally conscious products, and to meet science-based targets to combat the climate crisis. But as most sustainability professionals can attest to, this is easier said than done. Without the proper tools to accurately assess a product’s impact, it is challenging to design accordingly, much less provide credible and trustworthy information about sustainability claims to stakeholders and consumers.

That’s why we at the SAC, along with our technology partner Higg, are excited to introduce the new version of our Higg Product Module (PM). As one of five tools in the Higg Index, the updated Higg PM not only completes the suite, but elevates its capabilities for a more robust, holistic, and standardized measurement of sustainability across the entire value chain. 

For the first time, the industry has a comprehensive tool available to measure cradle-to-grave impacts at scale. This means that it is now easier than ever to design with sustainability and circularity in mind. 

On the heels of our transparency program launch last month, the release of the completed Higg PM further supports our mission to transform business for exponential impact: by equipping the industry with a reliable, efficient, and an easy-to-use tool that will help companies design better products, support their sustainability and circularity goals, and fulfill upcoming regulatory requirements (especially for those in the EU market). 

The first phase of our transparency program is built on another tool in the Higg Index, the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), the most robust tool on the market to help those across the industry assess the environmental impacts of their materials. The new Higg PM builds upon the foundation of the Higg MSI by going beyond materials. In addition to measuring design and manufacturing impacts, the Higg PM will now extend assessment to packaging, logistics, excess production, product durability, care, and end-of-use, which means that designers can understand impact across a product’s full life cycle

Unlike other tools on the market that only calculate or focus on one aspect or metric of sustainability measurement, the Higg PM gives a more holistic picture of a product’s impact — which is increasingly important as a demand from stakeholders, governments and consumers. If, as an industry, we are serious about transformational change, we can’t just focus on one aspect of sustainability — we need to be measuring it holistically so we understand what needs to happen at every step along the value chain.

SAC member companies like Pearl Izumi and MAS Holdings use the Higg PM as a way to reach their sustainability goals faster alongside a community that supports one another in using the tools to their greatest potential. In using the Higg PM, companies are able to track and measure their sustainability progress with a common language and methodology, which takes the guesswork out of how their products are performing. It also helps facilitate collective action by providing companies and the industry with insights that help them collaborate with their value chain partners more efficiently in order to improve sustainability performance and demonstrate progress. 

As an example, MAS Holdings uses the Higg PM because the standardized impact measurements allow them to identify hotspots in product development. Through this data, they are able to collaborate with their supply chain partners to fine-tune product criteria to mitigate climate risk. This alignment also saves time and resources, preventing duplicative efforts, so companies can focus their energy on improvements. Industry leaders have already gained significant benefits from the first rollout of the Higg PM in 2020, many of them using the tool to create products aligned with their sustainability values and informed by their science-based targets. We are excited to see how the completed tool will accelerate even more progress across companies and the industry at large. 

We believe that the Higg Index is the best and most holistic set of tools to enable the consumer goods industry to assess and improve its environmental and social sustainability. Though it is ever-evolving, it is aligned with the best available science, informed by industry, user and stakeholder feedback, and will continue to meet the most pressing industry needs. The new version of the Higg PM officially completes the Higg Index suite, marking a major milestone in the history of the SAC. 

Most importantly, the Higg PM provides companies trustworthy and credible data about their products, aiding them on the journey towards greater transparency. As consumers and governments continue to raise expectations around transparency, there is a massive opportunity for companies to deliver on these demands. The Higg PM will be instrumental in providing a new level of transparency, laying a reliable foundation for communicating sustainability performance at scale. 

Now that the suite of Higg Index tools is complete, we invite and encourage the industry to use them. Built upon a decade of industry and stakeholder engagement, the tools are most effective through widespread adoption, and they will continue to evolve and improve over time. The transparency program, as well as all of the five Higg Index tools, continue to benefit from constructive feedback, engagement, and partnership from a wide range of industry participants, both from within our membership, and outside of it. The tools are only as good as their users, and without use, they can’t improve. 

Industry transformation is necessary in order to address global systemic challenges such as the climate crisis. Together, we have an opportunity to support companies on their sustainability journey, empower consumers with trusted, credible data and drive collective action at scale. We hope you’ll join us.

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