Evolving Tools for Change: an Update on the Higg Index Review

Black and white headshot of Jeremy Lardeau
Jeremy Lardeau
January 11, 2023

With 2023 already in full swing, I wanted to take a minute to provide a quick update on where we are with the Higg Index Review, a process I know many of you, our members and external stakeholders, are keen to learn more about. With the process now underway, this blog highlights exactly where we are now and next steps.

As many of you will be aware, the last comprehensive review of the Higg Index was back in 2017. This saw approximately two dozen independent academics examine the methodology and workings of the MSI tool and provide their recommendations for further strengthening and development. Five years on, as we announced towards the end of last year, we’re seeking further expert guidance to inform the next phase of the Higg Index evolution.

Of course, it is important to be clear that the full suite of tools is still very much active and available to all users. The review is being carried out to ensure continuous improvement, the context in which the tools are used continues to evolve, and with it so must the tools. This is true of almost any system, database, or tool for measurement. We are committed to ongoing improvement to help ensure we are providing the industry with the strongest tools available to enable social and environmental change.

The review we have committed to is comprehensive. We are working with KPMG to coordinate the project, including recruitment of three panels of independent experts. There will be a panel for the FEM review, one for the BRM, and another for the MSI and Product Module. Each of these panels will be made up of approximately ten independent professionals with a cross-section of expertise and background. This will include technical and environmental specialists, academics and representatives from civil society. None of the individuals will be from member organizations and none will have previously worked on the Higg Index tools.

With this rigor comes additional challenges – if we were seeking a single expert partner organization to carry out the review, the recruitment, management and timelines would be significantly streamlined. However, a rapid recruit and review would not provide the depth of examination we are seeking.

Once the recruitment of the panels is finalized, the review process will take approximately eleven weeks. This will include briefing and preparation of all individuals, a Q&A phase for panelists to come back with specific points and clarifications, the review and evaluation itself, and then the creation of the report. We predict that each panelist will provide in the region of 50 hours to the review. While dates remain fluid as recruitment is finalized, we hope that SAC will receive the comprehensive report and recommendations in June 2023.

Once received, and in the spirit of transparency, we will publish the report in full for members, stakeholders and interested parties from our industry and beyond to read. It’s at this point that we will take stock of what action to take forward, how and when.

While we remain hopeful for validation that the underpinning MSI and PM methodology is in line with ISO14040, the standard addressing quantitative methods for assessment of environmental aspects of a product or service in its life-cycle, one area we expect to be highlighted in the report is the need for ever evolving data. This is where there could be potential for updates to the MSI and Product Module tools in the form of additional impact categories and shows where and how the world has moved on since the last review – for example, there are five impact categories at the moment and, in comparison, the hoped-for PEF from the European Commission has 16. We hope the review will help to identify data gaps to prioritize, and we can use this insight to further encourage the industry to step up and provide continuously stronger and independently verified LCA data to lock into the tools.

The review is independent, comprehensive, and an indication of the commitment SAC has to ensuring the Higg Index tools continue to play a crucial role in improving the fashion and apparel industry and in reducing its negative impact the planet and its people.

We will provide further updates as the process develops.

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