Garment and footwear industries measure supply chain sustainability

by Array

SAN FRANCISO, California: A coalition of clothing manufacturers, footwear producers, retailers, suppliers and experts has created an index to measure how much their supply chains affect the environment.

The Higg Index was developed by the members of the trade industry association the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) with the goal of being better able to measure the comprehensive environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products.

Still in its infancy, the Higgs Index is only able to account for a small number of environmental factors, including water use and quality, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, waste produced, the use of chemicals, and toxicity measures. But the intention is to evolve the index over the coming year so it will be able to incorporate key social and labour metrics.

“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.”

It is hoped by being able to quantify ecological outcomes, companies will be able use the data to change the way they manage their supply chains, and in the process reduce the harm to the environment.

“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.”

While 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.

The debut of the Higg Index comes after a year of beta testing sustainability impacts of some 150 products from more than 60 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 Karin Ekberg, Adidas Group head of environmental services. “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.”

The Higg Index may be downloaded for use on the Apparel Coalition website. Members of the organization include Timberland, Target, Adidas, Levis Strauss and Co, Mountain Equipment Co-op, LL Bean, Nordstrom, DuPont, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.