The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is retiring the single score from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) as it aims to enable SAC members and Higg Index users to expand and deepen their focus to the product level where a greater impact can be achieved.

In a statement, the SAC said it will accelerate the retirement of the aggregated single score by 4 January 2021. 

The Higg MSI was the first product developed in the Higg Index platform, which now includes five distinct tools that collectively work to accurately track, measure, and score a company or product's sustainability performance. The Higg MSI is a cradle-to-gate tool that assesses five environmental impacts of materials production: global warming potential, nutrient pollution in water, water scarcity, fossil fuel depletion, and chemistry. 

The purpose of the Higg MSI is to support apparel, footwear, and home textile designers and developers in making more sustainable material choices, leveraging independently-verified data and insights and providing insights across the range of environmental impacts associated with materials production. All background lifecycle impact assessment data in the Higg MSI comes from ISO-compliant studies and commercial databases. The Higg MSI is updated twice a year to reflect the best available peer-reviewed science.

This evolution of the Higg MSI will enable SAC members and Higg Index users to expand and deepen their focus to the product level where a greater impact can be achieved and is integral to the organisation's focus on accelerated decarbonisation efforts across the apparel industry value chain. The change paves the way for the second edition of the Higg Product Module (Higg PM), launching in spring of 2021, which will also include consideration of use and end-of-life.

"The SAC is driven by a commitment to collaboration and transparency, and we value stakeholder feedback to help ensure that our tools continuously evolve to meet the rapidly changing needs of our industry and reflect the most accurate peer-reviewed science. Our decision to move up the planned retirement of the MSI single score reflects not only our intended evolution of our focus from materials to the product level, but also to address some of the concerns among materials stakeholders," said Amina Razvi, executive director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition."

The move comes as leather industry trade groups last month called for a suspension of the Higg MSI score for leather to enable a review of the underlying methodologies and data.

Trade associations said "the use of inappropriate methodologies and out of date, unrepresentative, inaccurate and incomplete data, means that leather has been burdened with a disproportionately high Higg Index score leading to a negative perception that does not reflect the true circularity and sustainable nature of leather.

Retiring the Higg MSI aggregated single score will provide MSI users with access to the five individual impact area scores and enable companies to use those scores in ways that reflect their own priorities and material issues for their businesses. The retirement of the single score was initially planned to coincide with the upcoming launch of the second edition of the Higg Product Module (PM), and was accelerated as a result of ongoing engagement with other industry associations.

Michele Wallace, director, product integrity at Cotton Incorporated said: "Eliminating the single aggregated score in the Higg MSI is a positive step. Sustainability measurement tools need to balance ease with accuracy. Although single scores are easy to grasp, they do not address the inherent complexities of impact assessment. With this change to Higg MSI and the release of the Product Module with the full lifecycle, the Higg product tools will move closer to conformity with ISO standards."