Sustainable and organic are the buzzwords in the global apparel, footwear and textile industry. Suppliers and manufacturers across the value-chain are shifting towards adopting more energy-saving and eco-friendly manufacturing processes and reducing & managing waste. However, there are plenty out there who are just riding the sustainable wave without staying true to its purpose. Having complete transparency about a product - right from its origin to the point of sale is the need of the hour.

To solve the challenges of transparency, we need to have open conversations. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a non-profit organization that works towards achieving this and more. By establishing uniform standards to assess sustainability throughout a product's entire life cycle, from materials to end-of-life through its tool - Higg Index, the SAC enables brands, retailers, and facilities of all sizes to accurately measure and score a company or product's sustainability performance. The Higg Index delivers a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements that protect the well-being of factory workers, local communities, and the environment.

The SAC has released early registration of the latest version of the tool - Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM). It is a self-assessment tool that globally standardises sustainability measurement for apparel, footwear, and textile manufacturing facilities. The Higg FEM, optimised for use at an industrial scale, enables factories of any size, anywhere in the world, to assess sustainability performance and easily share results with supply chain partners.

Higg FEM helps businesses at every tier in the value chain collectively perform better by decreasing the negative environmental impact of manufacturing while saving money and improving their performance and relationships with supply chain partners. Currently used by over 8,000 businesses globally, the updated version helps further reduce audit fatigue and improve performance benchmarking by measuring water use, waste, emissions, and assessing chemicals management with increased analytics.

The SAC collaborated with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program to develop the tool's new chemicals management section. The updated tool additionally tailors questions based on a business' individual needs. Cut and sew factories, for example, will not need to answer questions about wet processes that do not apply to them. To ensure score accuracy and enable transparency, third-party verifiers approved by the SAC will confirm the data submitted by each facility.

The SAC believes global use of Higg FEM can transform the apparel industry into a responsible and sustainable one. Through a campaign called Link by Link, the SAC is calling upon its 200 members to deploy the tool globally at industrial scale, targeting 20,000 facilities and 400 brands to be online with the new version of Higg FEM by the end of 2018.

Manufacturers who previously used the Higg Index can register early to use Higg FEM at Brands can leverage the entire Higg suite of tools, including the updated Higg FEM through the small medium enterprise (SME) access model.