Aligning the Higg Index Product Tools with Evolving Regulation

  • Legislation and Policy
  • Higg Index Tools
  • Higg MSI
  • Higg PM

In March, Cascale and Worldly held a webinar, “Navigating Legislation & the Higg Index: Higg Product Tools with PEF and more.” In this blog, we share the recording, highlight key takeaways, and address submitted questions during the session.

April 30, 2024

On March 27, Cascale and Worldly hosted the first webinar in a joint series called “Navigating Legislation & the Higg Index.”

The series is designed to showcase how the Higg Index aligns with evolving regulations and how the tools support users through regulatory compliance.

Speakers included Cascale’s Gabriele Ballero, policy and public affairs officer; Joel Mertens, director, Higg Product Tools; Elisabeth von Reitzenstein, senior director of policy and public affairs; Quinten Geleijnse, manager, Higg Product Tools and lifecycle assessments; and Worldly’s Paula Bernstein, senior data manager.

Over 160 attendees joined and raised many thoughtful questions about the future of compliance for consumer goods.

The next webinar in the series “Navigating Legislation & the Higg Index: Higg BRM with CSRD and more” will be held on June 12. Learn more and register.

Key Takeaways

Importance of Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)

“The PEF methodology is likely to play an important role in the future EU product and consumer law legislation. The Higg Product Tools methodology is well-positioned for alignment with Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)/PEF Category Rules (PEFCR), and the Higg Product Tools can support members in navigating evolving legislations and provide guidance in their compliance journeys.” –Elisabeth von Reitzenstein, senior director of policy and public affairs

France: One to Watch

“France has been, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, a frontrunner on sustainability legislation….The French label is based on a type of PEF. It has very strong alignment with the European Product Environmental Footprint principles. One difference on durability is that the French Methodology also includes ‘emotional durability’ to a more committed extent than the European one. This proves again that a common method on PEF is important…Another new French initiative is a draft bill targeting fast fashion and sometimes ultra-fast fashion… Also on the European level, France is fighting its corner on these issues. At a Council of the EU meeting on March 25, it called, alongside Sweden and Denmark, for an EU-wide export ban of hazardous textile waste to developing countries.” – Elisabeth von Reitzenstein, senior director of policy and public affairs

Synergistic Approach, Led by Data

“Through our partnership with Cascale, Worldly is paying close attention to this regulatory landscape and what our customers need in order to prepare and report on their sustainability performance and progress. My team meets at minimum weekly with Cascale to get deep into the weeds on PEF, how it’s evolving, and what it means for our tools and the solutions we’re delivering. The Cascale team also helps us understand the challenges the industry is facing firsthand and ways to address it in the tools. Data is going to play a critical role in many, if not all, of these reporting requirements.” – Paula Bernstein, senior data manager, Worldly

Accessibility is Key

“The concept of accessibility is really key for the Product Tools because we want a variety of users with different levels of LCA knowledge, as well as data availability to produce consistent environmental product footprint results.” – Quinten Geleijnse, manager, Higg Product Tools and lifecycle assessments

Going Beyond Compliance

“Like the rest of the Higg Index Tools, we don’t want the sole purpose of the tools to be compliance – the tools should be going beyond regulation. We’re not just trying to have a PEF-compliant calculator. That is not ambitious enough to get the industry on track to where it needs to be. [The Higg Index] needs to be aligned with PEF, at minimum for compliance, but we do need to go beyond that.” – Joel Mertens, director, Higg Product Tools

Similar, But Difference

“There are a lot of commonalities between Higg Index Product Tools, PEF, and France’s Ademe methodology but we do expect that even with the same product information, it is very likely you will have different results depending on which methodology you’re calculating to or which region you’re calculating to…One of the important things is while there are differences in the results, the impact categories, the data needs, there is a way to bring this all together, and that is the hub concept.” – Mertens

Study Up

“One of the key aspects here is the difference between a footprint calculation and a footprint study, or LCA study. Our tools are calculating an environmental footprint of a product. An LCA study is distinct from the footprint calculation. There are additional requirements that have to be done to take you to that full study level, including a report and verification.” – Mertens

Understanding PEF

“PEF is an implementation of ISO-1440 and 44 standards. There are study requirements associated with that that I think get lost in the narrative. As to other tools in this space, the one thing I will say right now is there is not a final PEFCR for apparel and footwear. There are a lot of claims and misunderstandings as to what you can say in terms of compliance to PEF and PEFCR, and there’s no such thing at this point.” – Mertens

Questions Answered

What sustainability regulations in the EU define requirements regarding the environmental impacts of my products?

On the webinar, speakers discussed relevant EU legislation and initiatives, including:

  • Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) – [in force] – The CSRD is one of the ‘tools’ in the EU’s Green Deal toolkit, aimed to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. The CSRD establishes a standardized framework for companies to report on their social and environmental impacts through the use of European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS).
  • Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) – [expected mid-2027] – Designed to make sustainable products the norm in the EU, the ESPR sets eco-design requirements for specific product groups, including textiles. The requirements cover key sustainability aspects such as durability, recyclability, and use of recycled content, as well as the creation of a Digital Product Passport (DPP) that will act as a “digital twin” of the garments and aims at enhancing transparency and traceability along the value chain.
  • Substantiating Green Claims Directive (SGCD) – [expected 2025] – Aimed to tackle greenwashing, the SGCD introduces stricter and standardized methodologies for sustainability claims, making claims more reliable, transparent, and comparable.
  • France’s Anti-Waste for a Circular Economy Law – [in force] – The law requires large clothing brands to have verified environmental labeling; smaller companies will have to comply in 2024 and 2025.
  • France’s draft bill targeting fast fashion – [expected 2025] – The draft bill reinforces Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for textiles by introducing a penalty for products that are not sustainable or recyclable. This addresses the fast fashion sector specifically.

What is the significance of PEF in relation to these regulations?

These regulations relate in different ways to the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method and product footprinting in general. CSRD requires a thorough assessment of an organization’s impacts, risks, and opportunities, and specifically mentions PEF as a way to assess these. In addition, the calculation of scope 3 emissions is required under ESRS E1, for which LCAs and/or PEF studies are useful. ESPR will likely require environmental impacts to be communicated to external stakeholders through the Digital Product Passport, for which PEF and LCA studies can be used. The European Commission proposal for the SGCD sees a more diminished role for PEF in its current form than initially foreseen. Although PEF might not become a mandatory requirement itself under SGCD,  the more simplified procedure now pursued may include a presumption of conformity for environmental claims that are based on recognized methods, such as PEF. The French labeling law is based on calculations obtained from a central database run by Ecobalyse and the Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME). This method is inspired by PEF but has some noticeable differences.

What is the role of Cascale in drafting the Apparel and Footwear PEFCR?

The PEF category rules (PEFCR) contain specific rules for product categories that complement the PEF methodology. The rules direct focus to the parameters relevant to that specific product group, further standardizing the methodology. The Technical Secretariats (TS) of the EU develop these PEFCRs, and Cascale coordinates the TS developing the PEFCR for Apparel & Footwear, which includes determining the product-specific methodology and primary data requirements. The TS does not determine what secondary datasets are to be used and has to stay in line with the general PEF methodology. The PEFCR is expected to be finalized in Q1 of 2025 and is currently in its consultation phase.

How will the Higg Product Tools evolve to support users on their regulatory compliance journey?

The Higg Product Tools aim to guide product eco-design decisions by providing reliable, high-quality data. Given the legislative developments and the changing data requirements that they cause, the Product Tools should evolve accordingly. Our objective is to develop the Product Tools as a hub that allows different users (with different levels of data availability and LCA knowledge) to compute different types of results for different purposes. This means users can continue to identify impact hotspots and calculate scope 3 emissions, while we expand the tools’ functionalities to allow for PEF calculations. It is important to note that PEF compliance entails more than calculations only as PEF requires an extensive study report that has to be verified by a third party.

Some steps towards PEF-aligned calculations have already been taken by Cascale and Worldly. The current Product Module methodology was developed in alignment with the 2021 version of the PEFCR. This means the Product Tools are already well set up to expand towards PEF-aligned calculations. The team has mapped the key remaining differences between the current Product Tools methodology and emerging regulatory frameworks. This exercise informs Cascale’s product information Member Expert Team (MET) that currently helps define the product-relevant information fields the Product Tools need to contain to align with the data requirements of various frameworks, including PEF, ADEME, and the DPP. As indicated by the workstream flow chart below, Cascale will begin integrating the ADEME and PEF calculation methodologies with the Product Tools when they are finalized. In the meantime, work with the Product Information and Product Impact MET and continue to develop the tools’ hub functionality.

Cascale is working with Wordly to create a harmonized set of information fields for the Product Tools, containing all required information from the different legislative frameworks and distinguishing between mandatory, recommended, and optional data points. This allows users to compute different types of results based on a single set of information and enables the provision of at least some results when limited data is available. Cascale will also expand its current list of five impact categories to the 16 impact categories specified in the PEF methodology. To enable different result types to be computed, different calculation methodologies will have to be integrated into the Product Tools, some of which rely on different datasets than those currently used in the tools. Cascale is working together with Wordly to allow for parallel impact calculations and add these new (EF) datasets to the tools.

Please note that the visual is taken from the webinar slide deck and the timeline reflects the March 27, 2024 webinar date. Depending on when you are viewing this blog post, the visual may be out of date.

Will Cascale integrate the FEM with the Product Tools to allow facility information to be used for product footprinting?

Cascale and Worldly are working together to expand the Product Tools to enable users to select the energy mix used to manufacture their products. This will ensure the country or facility-specific energy mix is considered in the calculations, providing more precise impact calculations. A next step will be to connect the Higg Product Tools with the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) to enable the sharing of facility data to be used for product impact calculations.

Will home goods, home textiles, and furniture be in the scope of PEF? 

While many of our members can and are already using the product tools for homeware and home textiles, PEF currently is explicit for “Apparel and Footwear.” The sectors the EU Commission has identified for PEF are the following:

  1. Apparel & Footwear
  2. Beverages
  3. Chemistry-based final products
  4. Construction products
  5. Electrical & electronics
  6. Food products (including products not for human consumption)
  7. Materials and intermediate products
  8. Energy production and transmission

However, the Product Tools may still be used to assess adjacent products such as home textiles. Even our current Product Module tool has an option for an “other” product category, which is being used by some members to assess these types of products.

Navigating Legislation & the Higg Index: Higg BRM with CSRD & More 

  • Cascale Webinar

On June 12, we hosted an insightful webinar that explored the alignment between the Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM) and key regulations, including the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

Date & Time
June 12 2024 | 16:00 - 17:00

Peter Higgs: The Man Who Inspired Cascale’s Higg Index

  • Collective Action
  • Higg Index Tools
Black and white headshot of Lee Green
Lee Green
April 10, 2024

In the world of physics, few names carry as much weight as Peter Higgs.

Yet, it’s in the realm of sustainability where his legacy finds a surprising homage. Higgs, who died Tuesday at age 94 in Edinburgh, Scotland, received the Nobel prize for physics in 2013 for his work on the boson particle.

The Higgs boson particle would forever shape humanity’s understanding of atoms – and at Cascale, it served as inspiration for the Higg Index tools. Today, these tools are used by 24,000 businesses worldwide, empowering collaboration to drive equitable and restorative business practices in the consumer goods industry.

At Cascale’s recent rebrand celebratory event in London, co-founder Rick Ridgeway shared the story of how Higgs’ breakthrough announcement impacted the organization’s earliest days. “They had just discovered a subatomic particle [that] was going to unify the universe, Ridgeway said. “They were going to announce it about the same time we wanted to release our tool…I said, ‘If the Higgs boson atomic particle is going to unify the universe, the Higg assessment tool is going to save it.’”

Much of Higgs’ lifetime of work took place at Edinburgh University, and, in 2012, the institution set up the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics in his honor – the same year his theory was accepted and proven by scientists at The Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland. Decades of collaboration also went into the discovery: Higgs shared the Nobel prize with Belgian theoretical physicist François Englert, whose work directly contributed to the particle’s discovery.

Higgs’ legacy continues to inspire, as use of the Higg Index tools expands across the consumer goods industry, accelerating adoption of science-aligned targets through the Decarbonization, Manufacturer Climate Action Programs (MCAP), and other impact programs. This example is just one of the many synergies between industry and science in pursuit of a better planet.

Higg BRM Overview and Q&A

  • Cascale Webinar

This webinar was an introduction into the Higg BRM and a live Q&A session to answer any related questions.

Date & Time
April 11 2024 | 10:00 - 11:00

Navigating Legislation & the Higg Index: Product Tools with PEF & More

  • Cascale Webinar

On March 27 we hosted the inaugural webinar in this new series on how the Higg Product Tools intersect with key legislation such as Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), and Substantiating Green Claims Directive (SGCD).

Date & Time
March 27 2024 | 10:00 - 11:30

Cascale Releases Updated Higg Brand & Retail Module Tool

  • Higg BRM
  • Higg Index Tools
March 04, 2024

Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Oakland (CA) – March 4, 2024: Cascale (formerly the Sustainable Apparel Coalition) has launched the latest version of the Higg Brand and Retail Module (BRM), part of the Higg Index suite of tools. This update reflects Cascale’s commitment to continuously evolving, updating, and refining the Higg Index to meet the needs of members, users, and the industry.

The Higg BRM is the leading framework specific to the textile, apparel, and footwear industry designed for brands and retailers to evaluate, assess, and improve Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance. The tool assesses 11 critical impact areas along global value chains to foster a holistic approach to sustainability.

The Higg BRM 2023 update, launched in collaboration with Worldly – the exclusive platform for the Higg Index tools, which has become the leader in environmental and social impact data for the apparel and footwear industry –  will be live on Worldly’s platform today. While the Higg BRM 2023 update is minor, it brings a multitude of benefits to users, including more refined guidance, new social metrics, and a framework designed to keep pace with rapidly evolving sustainability landscapes. The Higg BRM remains consistent and comparable with previous versions, allowing for year-over-year tracking and continuous improvement, and aims to help organizations respond to the unique challenges that users face to facilitate significant, sustainable change for the industry.

“The Higg BRM stands as a beacon for sustainability in the fashion industry, guiding brands and retailers through their sustainability journeys,” said Maravillas Rodriguez Zarco, senior director, Higg Index Strategy & Operations at Cascale. “The Higg BRM is more than a tool—it’s a community’s commitment to a sustainable future. As we stride forward and converge with key frameworks, including the Textile Exchange’s Material Benchmark and the ZDHC Brands to Zero program, our members are empowered to craft sustainability strategies that are not only consistent but impactful.”

Higg BRM 2023 Benefits

Through the Higg BRM, brands and retailers are able to build consistent corporate sustainability strategies to deliver more effectively on ESG goals and industry needs, while avoiding duplication across sustainability initiatives. Furthermore, the Higg BRM can assist with supporting members and users in their reporting obligations. Cascale is actively evolving the tool to address potential gaps between the Higg BRM and the CSRD.

A new feature of the Higg BRM is upgraded benchmarking capabilities that provide a holistic view of a company’s performance, spotlight emerging trends, and uncover opportunities for continuous improvement. Since the last major update, the Higg BRM now assesses the entire value chain to provide a more comprehensive view of a company’s sustainability journey.

Additionally, Higg BRM verification is now accessible to all users (but remains optional for Cascale members), providing more accurate and trusted data, fostering deeper insights into performance metrics and data, and providing new avenues for continuous improvement.

The Journey to Update the Higg BRM

In 2022, Cascale initiated a discovery phase to identify the industry’s needs and the areas where the Higg BRM could improve. The organization interviewed 78 members and  evaluated 15 assessment frameworks. Finally, in close collaboration with members and industry partners, Cascale began to build the new Higg BRM tool. Key industry collaborators included the Apparel Alliance members Textile Exchange and ZDHC, as well as Fair Wear and STTI. These organizations have contributed to the development of specific content on chemicals, materials, biodiversity, circularity, and responsible purchasing practices. In 2023, a more streamlined version of the Higg BRM was introduced that included an exclusive, industry-specific ESG framework.

In 2023, a verification pilot was conducted with 11 Cascale member brands and three verifier bodies. Upon completion of the pilot, Cascale identified opportunities for improvements and tool enhancement to improve data accuracy and meet industry needs, further cementing the commitment to continuous improvement and evolution of the Higg Index tools.

To help members better understand the latest update and changes, Cascale will host a members-only Higg BRM Launch Webinar on Thursday March 7, to present key information and resources, and share what’s next for the Higg BRM.


About the Higg BRM

The Higg BRM is the leading framework specific to the textile, apparel, and footwear industry designed for brands and retailers to evaluate, assess, and improve Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance. The tool assesses 11 critical impact areas along global value chains to foster a holistic approach to sustainability.

About Cascale 

Cascale is the global nonprofit alliance empowering collaboration to drive equitable and restorative business practices in the consumer goods industry. Spanning over 300 retailers, brands, manufacturers, governments, academics, and NGO/nonprofit affiliates around the globe, we are united by a singular vision: To catalyze impact at scale and give back more than we take to the planet and its people. Formerly known as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Cascale owns and develops the Higg Index and a unified strategy for industry transformation.

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About Worldly 

Worldly is the planet’s most comprehensive impact intelligence platform, trusted by 40,000+ major brands, retailers, and manufacturers in fashion, outdoor, home goods, toys, and more. Worldly uniquely collects high-resolution primary data specific to companies’ value chains, operations, and products, providing insight into true impacts across carbon, water, chemistry, and labor. Featuring the most comprehensive source of ESG data for global manufacturers and the largest library of materials and product impacts, Worldly empowers businesses to scale responsibility into their global operations, faster and more accurately. Hosting, connecting with, and supporting the leading industry solutions and methodologies including ZDHC, Bluesign, and the Higg Index – the most widely-adopted measure of sustainability in the apparel industry – Worldly delivers the insights businesses need to reduce their impact, comply with emerging regulatory and financial disclosure requirements, and meet the expectations of a new generation of customers.

Membership Brochure

  • Membership

Discover the possibilities of becoming a member of Cascale, formerly Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), by downloading our membership brochure. Take the first step towards unlocking valuable benefits, industry insights, and a supportive global community.

Cascale membership brochure cover
February 22, 2024

Sustainable Apparel Coalition Launches Higg FEM 4.0

  • Higg FEM
  • Higg Index Tools
Rear view of female workers working at sewing machines in clothing factory in a row
November 02, 2023

San Francisco, Amsterdam, Hong Kong – November 2, 2023: Today, in partnership with Worldly, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) launched the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0 tool. This update marks an industry milestone in sustainability reporting to meet pressing environmental issues and industry standards, positioning Higg FEM 4.0, part of the Higg Index suite of tools, as the most applicable and leading assessment for environmental performance in the consumer goods industry.

Enabling more accurate reporting
As well as offering improved and more streamlined usability, Higg FEM 4.0 delivers better data quality. Featuring a new anomaly detector designed to flag inconsistencies, Higg FEM 4.0 provides more accurate reporting, ultimately enabling a more accurate environmental assessment of the industry.

Broader coverage of critical environmental issues
The tool also offers a deeper look at key environmental issues such as groundwater and soil contamination to help the industry make improvements at a global scale on critical issues. The new tool aligns with key global standards – including the GHG Protocol, the SBTi, and ZDHC Roadmap to Zero – to drive emissions reductions and reduce duplicative reporting. Additionally, Higg FEM 4.0 includes targeted questions that are more relevant to a facility’s processes, weeding out questions that are irrelevant.

Jeremy Lardeau, VP of the SAC Higg Index says, “Higg FEM 4.0 will bring impactful and necessary changes – from improved data quality to alignment with relevant industry standards, the updated tool offers a wide range of benefits to ultimately reshape how sustainable decisions are made along the supply chain.”

Industry led update
Higg FEM 4.0 was built on member and stakeholder feedback collected over the past two years It reflects the input of over 140 representatives across 12 Member Expert Teams (METs), including 62 representing manufacturers, 57 representing brands/retailers, 10 service providers, and five representing affiliate members. The METs, the FEM Strategic Council, partner organizations, and members all provided insights and feedback. The insights collected helped to shape the FEM framework, scoring methodology, question content, and more to build a tool that meets relevant industry standards and protocol. Additionally, Higg FEM 4.0 was tested by over 400 users who provided feedback within the platform. The SAC is excited for end users and stakeholders to experience the widespread benefits of Higg FEM 4.0, and empower them to identify, prioritize and scale sustainability efforts.

Jimmy Summers, Vice President of Environmental, Health, Safety & Sustainability, at Elevate Textiles: “Elevate Textiles is looking forward to the release of Higg FEM 4.0. Higg FEM is an essential part of transparently sharing our verified sustainability metrics and progress with our customers.  We also use Higg FEM as a foundational element of our overall sustainability program to ensure that all of our facilities around the world are meeting our expectations and improving their performance towards our facility-level and corporate goals and targets, including our Science-Based Targets for GHG reductions. We actively participated in the Higg FEM 4.0 pilot and are now prepared to ‘raise the bar’ with this more rigorous and beneficial version.”

Alan Chin, Senior Manager, Supply Chain Sustainability, at VF Corporation: “At VF, the Higg FEM assessment enables the company and our brands to measure key Scope 3 supplier-related impacts.  VF teams, along with the SAC staff, engage directly with our vendor partners to assess and improve supplier carbon emissions.  We are excited about the enhanced ability of the updated Higg FEM 4.0 to deliver actionable data and insights, enabling VF to support impact reductions across our global supply chain.”

James Schaffer, Worldly’s Chief Strategy Officer: “Higg FEM 4.0 is a game changer. In an industry with rapid change in impact reporting and regulation disclosure requirements, Higg FEM 4.0 directly addresses the current sustainability challenges and future needs businesses are facing. We’re proud to host this leading environmental assessment on the Worldly platform and provide businesses the impact intelligence they need. With new customized user experiences for facilities, Higg FEM 4.0 is an assessment tailored to facilities that gives brands visibility into the nuanced impact of their supply chain partners, so together they can identify hotspots and effectively improve their environmental footprint.”

Kyle Chung, Senior Manager – Sustainability, at Crystal International: “Crystal International’s sustainability efforts are strengthened by industry tools like Higg FEM to enhance environmental performance. Collaborating with our supplier network to leverage Higg FEM data and insights, we can make informed decisions to drive sustainability advancement across our operations and value chain. With the launch of the updated tool, we are better equipped to address the industry’s most pressing issues.”


— ENDS —

About the Higg FEM Tool
The Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) tool informs manufacturers, brands, and retailers about the environmental performance of their individual facilities, empowering them to scale sustainability improvements. The Higg FEM provides facilities a clear picture of environmental impacts and helps users identify and prioritize opportunities for performance improvements.

About the Sustainable Apparel Coalition
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a global, non-profit alliance of over 280 organizations in the apparel, footwear, and textile industry. Initially formed to create standardized sustainability metrics, the SAC has sharpened its focus to driving pre-competitive, collective action across three foundational pillars. As an independent entity, the SAC brings together brands, retailers, manufacturers, NGOs, academics, and industry associations to combat climate change, ensure decent work, and contribute to a nature-positive future. Central to the SAC’s mission is the Higg Index, a suite of comprehensive tools that empower members to measure, evaluate, and improve sustainability performance across the supply chain.

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About Worldly
Worldly is the planet’s most comprehensive impact intelligence platform, trusted by 40,000+ major brands, retailers, and manufacturers in fashion, outdoor, home goods, toys, and more. Worldly uniquely collects high-resolution primary data specific to companies’ value chains, operations, and products, providing insight into true impacts across carbon, water, chemistry, and labor. Featuring the most comprehensive source of ESG data for global manufacturers and the largest library of materials and product impacts, Worldly empowers businesses to scale responsibility into their global operations, faster and more accurately. Hosting, connecting with, and supporting the leading industry solutions and methodologies including ZDHC, Bluesign, and the Higg Index – the most widely-adopted measure of sustainability in the apparel industry – Worldly delivers the insights businesses need to reduce their impact, comply with emerging regulatory and financial disclosure requirements, and meet the expectations of a new generation of customers.

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GIZ Hosts Higg FEM 4.0 Webinar

  • Higg FEM
  • Higg Index Tools
Photo of women working at a factory in a row
October 31, 2023

The German Agency for International Cooperation, the service provider in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development, recently hosted a webinar to highlight key changes between Higg FEM 3.0 and the forthcoming Higg FEM 4.0. Moderated by Rakesh Vazirani, head of sustainability services for business stream products, the webinar included Angela Ng, director of Higg Facility tools, in conversation with Mohammad Abdul Qaium, sustainability manager at OVS S.p.a., and Arunhariharan B S, sustainability analyst at Eastman Exports Global Clothing. The discussion was designed to educate attendees about what additional data manufacturers should start collecting for Higg FEM 4.0 in order to be better positioned to complete the self-assessment and verification, as well as how to best use the tool to drive impact. “The industry overall has certain goals for sustainability,” Vazirani said. “There are goals with regards to reduction of emissions, there are goals with regards to reduction of freshwater, and there are goals with regards to ensuring that biodiversity is not being negatively impacted. And of course the big picture goal is to have a circular textile value chain.”

Although the subject matter was high-level and technical, Ng noted the deep level of collaboration between SAC members that culminated in the update. “We spent the last two to three years working with over hundreds of members, stakeholders and facility users to collect feedback on the tool framework, scoring methodologies and all the questions’ content,” Ng said. “These insights coming from our key Member Expert Teams and Strategic Councils helped us identify gaps in regulations, industry standards and needs and incorporate these into the new version of the Higg FEM 4.0.”

As Ng detailed, this work fits into the SAC’s  broader vision of “Evolution for Impact” to drive scalable solutions for industry-wide decarbonization. As Qaium shared, OVS demonstrated this by introducing a Sustainability Linked Bond in 2021 and setting goals to achieve a  21 percent reduction in carbon emissions and ensure that 100 percent of their suppliers use the Higg FEM and Higg FSLM, with 80 percent of their volume verified by 2024.

Ng also explained framing around key changes to Higg FEM 4.0, including an increase in data points: Over 70 unique data points are part of the Higg FEM 4.0 update, including site permits, energy, water, emissions, waste and chemical management. Although industry progress is gradually improving -– the percentage of users meeting Higg FEM foundational requirements was 19 percent in 2022, versus 15 percent in 2021 -– Ng emphasized that the SAC views Higg FEM 4.0 as a game-changer for industry-wide progress. Through a single shared facility assessment tool, Higg FEM 4.0 is designed to reduce facility third-party assessments, fuel better quality data and align industry benchmarking. As Arunhariharan detailed, once the Higg FEM is adapted to the user’s facility, they will be able to set targets and understand barriers to achieving them.

Ng also touched on how the Higg FEM 4.0 aligns with key industry standards -– including the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, Science-Based Targets initiative, and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Roadmap to Zero -– as well as how the updated tool zeroes in on the most critical environmental impacts like groundwater contamination to ensure that it reflects the key impact areas where businesses need to evaluate and address current challenges.

Additionally, she talked about the improved assessment relevance. Through improved applicability criteria, users will now only see questions relevant to their specific operations, so they can spend less time on assessment questions that are irrelevant to them.

Finally, she discussed how the findings from Higg FEM 4.0 can be applied at scale. Once facility impacts are known, volume can be allocated to low-carbon suppliers -– a tactic that is already being seen among industry players. For example, Ng shared a recent analysis of Higg FEM data by carbon management company Reset Carbon which found the top 1,500 facilities contribute to around 79 percent of total emissions or some 82.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. In the best case scenario, the industry can see an estimated 10 to 25 percent carbon reduction by shifting sourcing. By tapping insights from Higg FEM 4.0, devoting jobs to the most sustainable suppliers, the hope is that industry players see drastic improvement.

The SAC has scheduled a series of events that focus on the Higg FEM 4.0 update, including a webinar on November 7 and an APAC session on November 8.

Higg FEM 4.0 Training

This training provided users of the Higg FEM the opportunity to better understand the changes that will be made as we transition from the Higg FEM 3.0 to the Higg FEM 4.0.

Date & Time
June 14 2023 | 10:00 - 13:00