Higg is the technology platform that allows businesses to access the Higg Index and other frameworks to measure the social and ecological impacts of their value chains.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a multi-stakeholder alliance for the fashion industry, created the Higg Index in 2019. It provides a standardised measurement of sustainability in value chain value. It provides fashion brands and companies with a standardised way to measure sustainability from raw materials to products, factories and stores to carbon emissions to working conditions.
The Higg Index
The Index is comprised of five core tools, which together assess the social- and environmental performance of the value chains as well as the impact of products on the environment. It includes five modules, including the Higg Brand (BRM) and the Retail Module (BRM). Higg has recently introduced a shorter version of its Higg BRM called Brand and Retail Foundations.It was designed to reach a wider audience in the apparel industry and assist small and medium-sized companies that are at the beginning of their sustainability journey.
“Higg is the best solution on the market today to understand where your impact lies so you know where to start making change,” East tells Just Style exclusively.
Higg, SAC, how it all fits together
East explains that Higg was founded in 2019 as an organization for public-benefit purposes. It is the exclusive licensee to the Higg Index which East describes the industry-leading value-chain measurement methodology developed by Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
East says: “The Higg platform provides access to assessment frameworks, analytics, and other tools that show a company’s progress from measuring and managing to sharing supply chain impact data.”
He points out that the Higg Index does not represent all of the social or environmental measurement frameworks on Higg. Carbon RESET has recently launched a carbon management program for businesses that work with manufacturing facilities. Apparel Impact Institute, (Aii)..”
East believes Higg’s greatest challenge was starting the business with more than 10,000 customers already committed to using the Higg Index methodology.
He explains: “Our immediate focus was meeting the pent-up demand for enterprise level software. We needed to scale and proliferate the Higg Index facility and materials tools across our customers’ supplier bases and then rapidly build the brand, retail and product tools to help them go deeper into their value chains.”
Apparel & the Higg Index
The Higg Index’s Brand and Retail Module provides a comprehensive picture of value chain sustainability by assessing both environmental and social impact areas, which allows brands and retailers to embed their sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies into operations.
“Brands and retailers can identify hotspots and opportunities for improvement within their value chain logistics and operations,” he explains. “The Higg BRM also assesses the multiple life-cycle stages of a product from material sourcing to end of use. This is especially important in light of the forthcoming legislation such as The European Union’s directive for corporate sustainabilityThe French Labelling Act (or the proposed) New York Fashion Act in the US.”
The BRM allows integration of Carbon Disclosure Project data (CDP), according to East. This streamlines reporting and allows brands and value chain partners to connect with brands and share results with key stakeholders.
Higgin and Greenwashing
The Changing Markets Foundation has released a recent report that is critical of initiatives such as the Higg Index that use metrics and accreditations to support sustainability claims.
“The allegation that the organisations and companies named in the report have a nefarious agenda to promote ‘greenwashing’ amongst brands is disturbing,” comments East. “In fact, the Higg platform has been developed to enable transparent sharing of data as we believe this is an accelerator for change. While we fully acknowledge that Higg does not provide the perfect solution to solve the climate crisis, the planet doesn’t have time to wait for perfection and we stand behind the comprehensiveness and intent of the Higg Index and other tools we make available to our users.
“In light of the 2022 IPCC reportTo avoid the worst effects, global CO2 emissions must peak within three years. We can’t wait and must use the best tools that exist today to measure and manage our sustainability goals. The Higg Index was developed 10 years ago to help solve this massive problem, and it remains the only framework that can scale at the speed and complexity needed.”
He believes that any suggestion that existing methods cause more harm than good could encourage businesses to put off perfection. He says that we need to move now, and then be able evolve as new science emerges.
“While Higg supports regulation, we can’t wait until governments and policymakers agree on the best path forward, so we must use the tools that exist today. These efforts will only make climate change worse if they are delayed or hampered. Higg is the most effective solution available to determine where your impact lies and where you can make a difference. We will continue to design and build to accommodate any new credible data sources and regulatory requirements as soon as they are available.”
Higg with blockchain
East explains that the traceability partner programme includes Higg and other emerging technology solutions like atma.io and FibreTrace. He explains it is independent of the Higg Index or SAC’s industry transparency programme, although it’s intentionally complementary to both organisations’ shared goal of providing transparent industry impact data.
“The traceability programme was created to enable comprehensive traceability across the global supply chain. It allows Higg customers to dig deeper into their chain of custody efforts and gain access to integrated data sources on the platform. The purpose is to fast-track global brands’ efforts and uncover the hidden impacts within manufacturing processes, ensure fibre integrity, and to understand, communicate, and accelerate product sustainability. It will also allow consumer brands to identify and share the supply chain provenance of billions of items with their upstream value chain partners, highlight and disclose sustainability information – on their own and other e-commerce platforms – to the public and other stakeholders.”
Social and labour benchmarks
Higg updated the Higg Index earlier this year (February 2022) to include social- and labour performance benchmarks. The Converged Assessment Framework is developed by the Social and Labour Convergence Programme, which is then used by the SAC to inform the Facility Social and Labour Module.
“Higg has launched a benchmarking featureFSLM users could gain greater social and labour insight from the platform. Two reasons are why social and labour performance benchmarking is so important.
“First, most solutions focus on a single environmental impact area such as carbon or chemicals. Higg’s approach of providing insights for social, labour, and environmental performance, allows businesses to start gaining a comprehensive picture of their impact. Higg is the only company to provide a complete performance measurement for the entire value chain, including social, environmental, and energy impacts, as well as carbon, water, energy and social impacts.
“Second, Higg users can compare the environmental and social impact within their own value chain and against industry peers. This, too, gives businesses a new perspective on their own performance and informs strategic decisions to meet sustainability goals.”
The availability of transparent data and policy are expected to play a crucial role in encouraging rapid change in the apparel industry. East says: “The Higg Index methodologies were developed to accommodate the European Due Diligence and Product Environmental Footprinting (PEF) requirements to support companies as they evaluate their supply chains and the environmental impacts of the products they create.
“Ultimately, science-based targets will continue to inform how the measurement tools evolve and how they continue to provide companies with an increasingly comprehensive view of their performance and data.
East Concludes: “From a technological perspective, our goal is to continuously improve how we can use technology solutions and complementary data to better deliver the tools and services we give our customers, including the Higg Index.”
Series B funding round in the amount of US$50m
Higg wants other sectors to be able use its value chain sustainability indicator. On 27 April, Higg announced a successful US$50m Series A funding round to help make this happen.
Higg explained that the new funding will allow Higg to accelerate the delivery of technology solutions and expand its use of the Higg Index for consumer goods categories such as outdoor, automotive and toys.
Digital Transformation Solutions and Product Lifecycle Management for Retail, Fashion, and Apparel Companies
WFX (World Fashion Exchange).
Cloud-Based Software for Fashion Brands and Apparel Manufacturers (PLM, ERP), Virtual Showroom, Smart Factory, etc.