The Higg Index

The Higg Index is a suite of tools developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (“SAC”) to measure and assess the environmental and social impacts of products and processes in the apparel and footwear industry. It is marketed as offering “a standardized framework and assessment methodology to help companies evaluate and improve the sustainability performance of their supply chains.” The Higg Index consists of a number of modules:

Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM): This module focuses on evaluating the environmental impacts of manufacturing facilities in the apparel and footwear supply chain. It covers areas such as energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, wastewater management, waste generation, and chemical management.

Higg Brand & Retailer Module (Higg BRM): This module helps brands and retailers assess and improve their sustainability performance across various aspects of their operations, including product design, materials sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, and social and labor conditions.

Higg Product Module (Higg PM): This module enables brands and manufacturers to assess the environmental sustainability of individual products. It considers factors such as material choices, product design, manufacturing processes, packaging, and end-of-life disposal.

Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI): The MSI assesses the environmental impacts of materials used in consumer goods industries. Use the MSI to assess and compare the impacts of the materials, trims, and packaging featured in your products. Built on science-based, trusted life cycle assessment data, the MSI offers insight into the best materials and manufacturing process options your company can use to develop more sustainable products. The MSI drives the development of materials sustainability strategies within companies and among value chain partners. It provides a common language for materials impact assessment across several connected industries.

SAC markets the the Higg Index as a way to enable companies to measure their sustainability performance, identify areas for improvement, set goals, and track progress over time. The assessment results can help inform decision-making, promote transparency, and encourage collaboration within the industry to drive positive change. The Higg Index is used by apparel and footwear brands, manufacturers, and suppliers as a voluntary tool to promote sustainability and responsible practices. It provides a common language and methodology for evaluating and comparing the environmental and social impacts of products and supply chains, facilitating communication and collaboration across the industry.

Controversy, Suspension

In June 2022, SAC announced that it was suspending the use of sustainability data from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) on consumer-facing product labels on a global scale after the Norwegian Consumer Authority concluded that apparel brand Norrøna’s use of Higg MSI data to make claims about an organic cotton t-shirt was “likely to be false and untruthful” and therefore, in breach of Norway’s Marketing Control Act.