New update on index assessing environmental impact of materials production

By Muneerah Bee

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) recently announced an update to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), a tool that enables the apparel, footwear and textile industry to assess the environmental impact of materials used in global manufacturing.

With the most recent update to the Higg MSI, businesses around the world can more effectively assess the environmental impact of materials as they design more sustainable products.

Cited as the industry’s most trusted tool for accurately measuring and scoring a material’s environmental impact, the Higg MSI now features 80 base materials, including cotton, polyester and silk. When blended, these account for the majority of all materials the industry currently uses.

The update includes a new feature that enables suppliers to share sustainability performance information about their materials with brands and retailers. Such upstream communication promotes greater transparency and improved sustainability performance within the industry, according to the organisation.

“With the opportunity to play a key role in determining a product’s sustainability performance, being a designer today is really exciting,” SAC CEO Jason Kibbey said. “With the Higg MSI, product designers can access an incredible amount of information and then use it to significantly reduce environmental impacts of materials production.”

Applying trusted metrics, the Higg MSI assesses a material’s environmental performance and scores the results. Calculations account for energy, water, chemistry and additional impacts used in material production, giving designers greater insight in creating more sustainable apparel. For the apparel, footwear and textile industry, this can help companies design products that will attract and retain key consumers, who increasingly demand greater transparency on how their clothes and shoes are made. Using more sustainable materials will reduce the environmental impact of global manufacturing and help businesses stay relevant in today’s marketplace of increasingly aware consumers, SAC added.

“Across VF Corporation and our brands, we integrate material sustainability metrics into design decisions,” said Sean Cady, vice-president, Global Responsible Sourcing at VF Corporation – an American apparel and footwear company. “The Higg MSI provides an objective and comparable metric, which informs our material choices and allows us to meet consumer expectation and brand promises.”

The SAC, a global industry coalition that is standardising social and environmental sustainability performance measurement, stated it is constantly improving and expanding the Higg MSI. Higg MSI users are encouraged to contribute material data to the tool’s growing library of materials. Once data is submitted, it is reviewed and verified and scored by third-party experts.

Originally called the Nike Considered Index, the Higg MSI originated at Nike about a decade ago. The footwear and apparel corporation contributed the tool to SAC in 2012 after seeing the benefit that global collaboration would bring to on-going development and industry-wide use of the Higg MSI.

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