Walmart, Nike, Target, JC Penney, Levi’s and fellow members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition have unveiled the group’s index for measuring the environmental impact of apparel products across the supply chain.
The Higg Index is an indicator-based tool for apparel that allows clothing manufacturers and brands to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and product design choices.
This 1.0 version of the index was developed for apparel products and measures environmental outcomes in water use and quality; energy and greenhouse gas; waste; and chemicals and toxicity.
Future releases of the index, slated for 2013, will include footwear products and social and labor impact areas, the coalition said. The index eventually will be expanded to include quantitative data and metrics and feature an improved scoring method.
The current version of the Higg Index asks practice-based, qualitative questions to gauge environmental sustainability performance. It’s based on the Eco Index and Nike’s Apparel Environmental Design Tool. However, the Higg Index has been significantly enhanced through the pilot testing period, the coalition said.
The tool includes a Materials Sustainability Index, a cradle-to-gate assessment tool to give designers and the global supply chain information on the environmental sustainability of materials.
A group of 30 manufacturers and retailers launched theSustainable Apparel Coalition last year to improve the environmental and social performance of the apparel and footwear industry, from water consumption and chemical use to waste and embedded energy in products.
Last month, Nike partnered with Random Hacks of Kindness in the Open Challenge for Sustainable Materials, an initiative that asks apparel designers and developers to use sustainable materials listed on the Nike Sustainable Materials Index.
Article by Marc Gunther at Greenbiz.com: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2012/07/26/behind-scenes-sustainable-apparel-coalition?utm_source=E-News+from+GreenBiz&utm_campaign=21c7056b94-GreenBuzz-2012-27-07&utm_medium=email
The story of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition begins with a letter designed to get the attention of even a busy CEO. At the top: the logos of Walmart and Patagonia. John Fleming, who was then Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, and Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, signed the letter, which invited chief executives of some of the world’s biggest clothing companies–fierce competitors, ordinarily — to join together to develop an index to measure the environmental impact of their products.
Their pitch, in part, read like this:
Creating a single approach for measuring sustainability in the apparel sector will do much more than accelerate meaningful social and environmental change. Standardization will enable us to maximize sustainability benefits for all buyers without investing in multiple sustainability technologies and certification processes, and ultimately empower consumers to trust claims regarding sustainably sourced apparel.
Finally, as an industry, we will benefit from the unique opportunity to shape policy and create standards for measuring sustainability before government inevitably imposes one.
…The time is right and the need is great for the apparel sector to move forward now, without further delay, in unison, with strong partners like you.
It was a risky proposition. What if it turned out that a competing company had a better sustainability story to tell? Would consumers be given access to the index? NGOs? Regulators? Most big retailers knew that they had very little visibility deep into their supply chains. Did they really want to find out, for example, that a supplier to one of their suppliers, in a factory they had never visited in China or Vietnam, exploited workers or dumped pollution into a nearby river? Any meaningful index would require companies to ask tough questions and, eventually, face demands from others to share what they had learned.
The letter went out on October 1, 2009. Less than three years later, despite those risks, the apparel industry has made major progress towards creating a global sustainability index, the Higg Index, to measure and score products, factories and companies. A first version was released today by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the nonprofit group that developed the index.
Its vision? Nothing less than “an apparel and footwear industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.” The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) hired an executive director, Jason Kibbey, in January, and today it has more than 60 members, representing brands, retailers and suppliers who together account for more than a third of the global apparel and footwear industry.