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Measuring fashion sustainability- all about the higg index

Sustainability is the need of the hour – be it in energy, agriculture, or fashion. The demand for assimilating environmentally friendly fashion alternatives is causing major changes in the industry with brands taking steps like changing from artificial fabrics to natural ones. But the mere change seems not enough. There is this critical question of measuring their credentials which can be expensive, complex, and time-consuming.

So, one organization – the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) – an alliance of NGOs and companies like fashion giants Asos, Inditex, and H&M, launched the Higg Index in 2011, a set of tools for measuring sustainability that could someday become the standard in the apparel industry. It consists of five criteria spanning social and environmental impacts of brands like water use, carbon emissions, and labour conditions. There are two product-focused tools – The Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) and the Higg Product Module (PM) for designers and producers and two facilities-based tools – The Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) and the Higg Facility Social and Labor Module (FSLM) focused on the environment and workforce conditions. By late 2023, the program also hopes to expand to incorporate social data into this. Finally on the list is the Higg Brand and Retail Module (BRM) that deals with company management, retail, transportation, etc. There is also a recently introduced Higg Index Sustainability Profiles.

The Present Scenario of the Index

Currently, the Higg Index user base has about 21,483 organizations across 119 countries with more than 45,000 users including hundreds of brands and tens of thousands of manufacturers covering approximately 40 percent of the apparel, footwear, and home textiles industry. One of the tools’ greatest strengths, the company says is that it was developed by industry experts and is created to be useful and accessible to those who would use them. The SAC’s goal is to have 100 percent of the brands, retailers, and manufacturers on their platforms to have a public-facing rating of sustainable performance that is credible and trusted by 2025 and are continuously working to create comprehensive, credible, and scalable verification programs for each of the Index tools to improve the accuracy of the data reported.

The Process Involved

According to the company, the amount of time taken by factories, brands, retailers to use the Higg Index to measure their sustainability varies widely based on a number of factors. First-time users can start out with a short and simple initial assessment and later advance to more complex questionnaires that are rather detailed and lengthy. Once users have completed the initial assessment, they can then share their Higg results with as many supply chain partners as they’d like and this process helps build accountability within the global value chain and reduces audit fatigue for facilities. This allows companies to start to understand where they are on their sustainability journey and improve in ways further.

Higg Index Sustainability Profiles

The Higg Index Sustainability Profile is a consistent scorecard that will be disclosing information on a product’s environmental impact. 

Brands will be able to create profiles for specific products, which will include the following information:

  • A general text description of the product’s environmental impact level, and an accompanying graphic comparing its performance to a conventional baseline.
  • Additional performance details within specific impact categories, including global warming, fossil fuels, water use, and water pollution.
  • A Sustainability Profile on a brand or retailer’s product displays an e-commerce page to help shoppers make more informed purchasing decisions. 

For example, the Higg Materials Sustainability Index is said to be one of the most evolved tools in the Higg suite and has been created to help the industry evolve as more new data became available. It is used to compare various material categories like organic cotton versus conventional cotton and recycled polyester versus virgin polyester and decide on the needs for production, effects on the environment, etc.

All Sustainability Profiles are also hosted on a public-facing section of the Higg platform, at

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