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SAC publishes details of renewed Higg tool prior to release

By Simone Preuss


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Higg tools. Image: Sustainable Apparel Coalition

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has published a Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0 technical paper that gives users highlights of the tool’s new version that will be released in November 2023.

The Higg FEM is a facilities-based tool that assesses a facility across several dimensions such as energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use and effluent, waste management and chemicals and aims to standardise how supply chain facilities measure and evaluate their environmental performance year-on-year.

“The release of this technical paper and the changes we have made to the Higg FEM are a huge milestone for the SAC and industry at large, and are a testament to our commitment to collaborate with experts and collect feedback so as to improve our tools to drive greater impact. Only through these joint efforts can we radically transform the industry and play our part in addressing the climate crisis,” commented Jeremy Lardeau, VP, Higg Index at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, in a press release. 

Higg MSI under fire in 2022

SAC’s product-focused tool, the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) had come under criticism this year. It allows designers and product developers to assess and understand the cradle-to-gate impacts of millions of possible manufacturing variations. However, in June of this year, the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) had criticised Higg partner H&M for using the tool for marketing purposes and decided to ban the use in Norway.

Other points of criticism include that it favours synthetic products, that underlying data is part of its paid content and thus not freely available, and that the analysis of a material’s environmental impact does not include an item’s full life-cycle. SAC and technology partner Higg Co released a new version of the Higg MSI in August of this year that provides more accurate and detailed information and allows deeper material assessment.

Probably learning from the experience, the latest version of the Higg FEM is based on member feedback that was collected during the latest version cycle. This includes feedback from brands, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other international organisations. For the update, tool feedback was taken into account as well as feedback about the FEM framework, scoring methodology and question content, among others. 

“As a collective action coalition, representing half of the apparel, footwear and textile sector, the SAC has a pivotal role to play in helping to move the industry forward and in tackling the climate crisis. And, as a manufacturer, we welcome the release of this technical paper and believe the latest Higg FEM version will be instrumental in helping us deliver on our climate goals,” said Delman Lee, vice chair at TAL Apparel and SAC board chair.

Highlights of the Higg FEM update:

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition has highlighted the major changes in Higg FEM 4.0 in the press release, among them the addition of questions on:

  • phasing out coal and other fossil fuels and on using renewable energy and science-based targets,
  • wastewater sludge management, aligned with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) guidance,
  • Scope 1 & Scope 2 GHG emission calculations per GHG protocol,
  • groundwater management and usage, including tracking consumption and meeting legally-mandated groundwater extraction limits.

In addition, the categorisation of refrigerant gasses has been enhanced to accurately calculate GHG emissions from potential leakages and facilities that manufacture final, finished products and fabric in the same facility will need to track and report their energy and water consumption data separately. 

“The new requirements for the Higg FEM will be implemented from 2023 and the updated tool will be released on the Higg platform in November 2023 for facilities to work on their self-assessment for the performance year 2023, with content training planned throughout 2023 to provide users a better understanding of the tool,” stated the coalition in the press release. 

The complete technical paper is now available on the SAC website.

Sustainable Apparel Coalitiion