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Sustainable Apparel Coalition unveils new measurement tool
26
Jul '12
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), a trade association comprised of brands, retailers, manufacturers, government and non-governmental organizations and academic experts, and representing more than a third of the global apparel and footwear market, unveiled the Higg Index, a new tool for sustainability measurement across the industry value chain. 

The Higg Index was developed by the SAC's membership and is based on established evaluation tools – including the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index and Nike's Environmental Apparel Design Tool – to better measure the comprehensive environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products. Through use of the Higg Index, companies can identify opportunities to reduce impacts and improve long-term sustainability throughout their supply chain.

"The Higg Index marks the most thorough and complete attempt at measuring environmental performance data from material sourcing through end of life," said Sustainable Apparel Coalition Executive Director Jason Kibbey.  "We are confident it will have a positive impact on product sustainability over time, and become a model for how industries can collaborate in making a positive impact on value chain performance."

Designed to be a transparent and open-source tool for comprehensive measurement of apparel and footwear products, the current version of the Higg Index focuses on measuring desired environmental outcomes in the following categories: water use and quality; energy and greenhouse gas; waste; chemicals and toxicity.  The SAC is working continuously to refine the tool further, and a future iteration of the Higg Index, slated for release in 2013, will also incorporate key social and labor metrics.

The immediate priority of the SAC is to use the Higg Index to drive improvement and innovation in the global apparel and footwear supply chain. While Coalition members see the need and value of a consumer-facing rating for products, it is a long-term aspiration and no timetable has been set for development of a consumer-facing label based on the Higg Index.

"Target currently uses the Higg Index within parts of our supply chain," said Target Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability Scott Lercel. "This tool allows our teams to make better decisions, improve our supply chain and, most importantly, reduce our impact on the global environment."

The debut of the Higg Index comes after a year of beta testing sustainability impacts of some 150 products from more than 63 companies, and has already provided indicators for improvement of value chain performance.

"During months of pilot testing, we have already been able to use the Higg Index as an environmental indicator in the production of many of our products by all brands," said Adidas Group Head of Environmental Services Karin Ekberg. "We intend for the Higg Index to form an increasingly important part of our overall product creation and production strategy in the years to come."

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