How Fashion Brands Can Leverage Higg BRM for Decision-Making, Compliance

Higg BRM’s tool update in March scales up value chain sustainability improvements.

  • Higg Index Tools
  • Higg BRM
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Black and white headshot of Kaley Roshitsh
Kaley Roshitsh
March 13, 2024

With 2030 on the horizon and regulation in flux, brands and retailers are looking for a streamlined means for measuring progress.

In an interview with Cascale, Maravillas Rodriguez Zarco, senior director Higg Index Strategy & Operations, explored the recent Higg Brand and Retailer Module (BRM) update, including how it could advance data-driven decision-making and compliance in fashion.

Zarco shared that, for starters, Higg BRM’s ESG assessment is designed specifically for fashion’s hotspots so any brand or retailer can isolate and deploy resources more effectively. Amid ongoing regulation, the Higg BRM will support users in their compliance journey, specifically with the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). The Higg BRM, as with other tools, was the subject of a November 2023 policy alignment report from Cascale and consulting firm BCW. The analysis showed Higg BRM is “well aligned” with the requirements of the EU CSRD.

“Our strength lies in understanding the dynamics occurring throughout the value chain, knowing where to put the effort and what the immediate challenges of the industry are to become more sustainable,” said Zarco.

Higg BRM provides granular data in a digestible way that allows for data-driven decision-making. Zarco said it’s a testament of the way the assessment was built and how the scoring was developed. Benchmarking (a members-only feature) and verification equally supports this intention. Ultimately, the tool allows fashion brands and retailers to assess and support their partners along their compliance journey.

“We think of Higg BRM not only as a robust ESG assessment tool, but also an ally for members and non-members alike. It allows fashion brand and retailers to assess their ESG performance in a standardized way. It can be shared with their business partners across the value chain, so that they can make informed decisions.”

And policy is not ever an afterthought. Zarco said a technical paper is coming soon, outlining the specifics of brand and retailer compliance. Until then, she said the latest Higg BRM update is a useful way to drive data-driven decision-making for brands.

“We’re actively evolving the tool to address potential gaps between the Higg BRM and the CSRD,” said Zarco. “Through this tool, brands and retailers are able to build consistent corporate sustainability strategies to deliver more effectively on ESG goals and industry needs, reduce reporting burden, and avoid duplication across sustainability initiatives.”

Specifically, the updates include improved data consistency and accuracy, while providing deeper performance metrics and insights. Another standout feature of the update, Zarco mentioned, is upgraded benchmarking for members. All past versions of Higg BRM are compatible with upcoming versions including this latest update. Further, the tool maintains alignment with key industry frameworks including Textile Exchange’s Material Benchmark, which addresses more sustainable or preferred fiber types, and the Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemical (ZDHC) “Brands to Zero” program which focuses on net-zero improvements.

Cascale also updated its Higg BRM Verification upon member feedback for improved consistency and data accuracy. Exactly 11 brands participated in the Higg BRM verification pilot and their insights informed the latest updated Higg BRM Verification. This version is available to all users but remains optional for Cascale members.

“Though a minor update, the latest Higg BRM is designed for major impact,” she reiterated.

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