Evolving for Change: Learnings and Action From the Technical Review of the Higg MSI and PM Tools

  • Higg MSI
  • Higg PM
Black and white headshot of Jeremy Lardeau
Jeremy Lardeau
September 26, 2023

The SAC was founded on the idea of evolution. Through ongoing updates, our tools become more and more powerful at helping our members transform their businesses. Today, we continue to demonstrate that core concept with the publication of the first report from our Higg Index Review process, which is downloadable here. The report addresses the Higg Product Tools – the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) and the Higg Product Module (PM) – and plays an important role in helping us reassess and evolve our product life cycle tools in order to best serve the industry. 

But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum: We had to listen and learn from you, our community. To do so, we engaged KPMG, which coordinated the creation of a panel of experts that represent a cross-section of the industry; KPMG led the process of generating the report, ensuring that it remained unbiased and independent. All who participated brought insightful perspectives that triggered powerful conversations about how we — the SAC, and the apparel and textile industry — can evolve the tools to drive greater impact. We were again reminded that our tools, while tailored to this industry, must respond to the global call to reduce social and environmental impacts as a whole and align with global industry standards. 

With a broad range of representation from the expert panel, we welcomed the strengths that were acknowledged, including the tools’ alignment with ISO LCA phases to quantify and assess the environmental impacts of materials and products. But more importantly, the review process surfaced clear feedback and recommendations to improve these tools. We are taking these recommendations to heart and we have started evaluating how best to address each recommendation. 

In some cases, the work is already underway. 

We are re-working the Higg MSI data structure and leveraging the forthcoming Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) update, which will launch in September, to connect them and allow factory-specific data to inform Higg MSI data sets, and which will lead to improved geographical coverage and specificity within the Higg Product Tools. We’re also actively working to improve data quality within our background datasets (secondary data), specifically in cotton fiber and textile wet processing data. Through this effort, we’re working with supply chain stakeholders to determine the type of data that is available, outline data gaps, identify intrinsic differences due to geography, and build consistent LCA models that can show improvements over time. This is a process that we’ll continue to replicate with other materials and processing stages in the future.

The expert panel also recommended that our tools must align with EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) – an evolving LCA methodology, that aims to create a harmonized common framework for calculating and communicating impact — and we fully agree. We’ve long incorporated alignment to the Apparel & Footwear PEFCR into our strategy goals and methodologies. For example: Our requirement on including renewable energy is aligned with PEF, as is our methodology to calculate the water impacts.

In other cases, we believe we can implement changes in the next phase of regular tool updates.

For example, we will develop the recommended signals and warnings, as well as offering more education and training, to help users correctly and more effectively use the tools. 

Finally, some recommendations will require a deeper process of stakeholder engagement and research to explore feasibility and practical application.

For example, the SAC is closely monitoring the progress made in ways to assess the full impacts of marine litter and microplastics in LCA data. Ultimately, the ongoing evolution of the tools means the SAC will continue to assess the recommendations over the coming months and how best to implement them in the tools’ development roadmap. 

In 2024, we will be conducting independent reviews for the Higg Brand and Retail Module (BRM) and Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) tools. Due to the timing of these updates, the Higg Product Tools were reviewed first. The remaining Higg Index Review reports will be shared in full by the SAC once they have been finalized by the review panels. 

Science isn’t static — and neither are we. We are committed to continued enhancement in order to arm the industry with the most robust, data-driven tools so that we can all stand behind decisions that are as socially responsible as they are environmentally sound. Finally, we are grateful for those who contributed their time and effort to the process of generating this report, as well as for the continued engagement of – and critical feedback from – our trusted members and partners.

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