New tool assesses impact of apparel and footwear - Just Style
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New tool assesses impact of apparel and footwear

16 Jun 2021

Brands and manufacturers can use the Higg Product Module (PM) to develop apparel, footwear, and other consumer goods products with lower sustainability impacts.

New tool assesses impact of apparel and footwear

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), along with its technology partner Higg, has announced the completion of a new tool that evaluates the comprehensive environmental impact of products.

In addition to developing greener products, companies can also use the new tool to credibly communicate their performance, demonstrate progress towards sustainability and circularity goals, and address anticipated regulation.

The Higg PM is one of five tools in the Higg Index suite of tools developed by the SAC for the standardised measurement of value chain sustainability. There are two product-specific tools in the suite: the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) and the Higg PM. While the Higg MSI assesses cradle to gate, the Higg PM will expand to measure cradle to grave impacts, including end-of-life, providing designers, developers, and sustainability experts directional guidance on how to improve the environmental footprint of a product they’re designing.

“We are moving beyond a ‘materials-only’ view of product impact. Now that the Higg Product Module is complete, the tool will consider design, manufacturing, packaging, logistics, excess production, product durability, care, and end of use, delivering a full view of a product’s comprehensive environmental impacts,” explains Jeremy Lardeau, vice president of Higg Index for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

More than 150 companies have already used the Higg PM to assess over 1,000 products. With this launch, the full Higg Index suite of tools is complete, which is central to the SAC’s mission to transform businesses for exponential impact. As companies commit to science-based corporate sustainability goals, the Higg PM will help them understand their holistic sustainability performance and enable progress towards circularity goals.

As corporate sustainability goals evolve, consumers and regulatory bodies expect the consumer goods industry to become more transparent. Brands need credible data that paints a full picture of their impact from the products they design to how those products are made, the SAC explains, adding the product tool was developed with these expectations in mind and can help companies prepare for anticipated legislation.

For organisations with an EU presence, the Higg product tool is designed to evolve and aims to align with future EU PEF Apparel & Footwear Methodology.

“The Product Module is a game-changer for member companies and the industry at large. It gives the industry a  credible tool to assess cradle-to-grave impacts of products, supporting ambitious sustainability goals and preparing users to fulfill future regulatory requirements. It also marks an important milestone for the SAC, completion of the Higg Index, and opens a new chapter in our sustainability journey towards collective action and industry transformation,” says Amina Razvi, executive director of the SAC.

In response to increasing expectations, companies continue to step up climate change commitments and initiatives and need tools to accurately and credibly report on their progress. Many focus on reducing carbon emissions as a starting point, in line with global efforts such as the Paris Agreement or the Science Based Targets Initiative. Brands can use the new Higg PM to assess their supply chain Scope 3 category emissions from purchased goods and services as well as the impacts from the use of sold products and the end-of-life treatment of sold products, for a comprehensive carbon footprint assessment that can be scaled across its products.

With the new tool, consumer goods industries can move beyond simply measuring disparate environmental impacts of products, an important step towards meaningful consumer-facing sustainability claims, another area the SAC is focused on in partnership with Higg, as revealed by the rollout of Sustainability Profiles scorecards last month.

“We are seeing a dramatic rise in conscious consumerism and ESG investing, paired with expanding supply chain regulation. The SAC launched the first phase of our transparency programme in May 2021 to help provide shoppers with unprecedented visibility into a product’s impact on the planet and its people. With the Product Module complete, we are one step closer to transforming the industry by helping companies develop more sustainable products, prepare for future regulations, and communicate their performance credibly to consumers to help them make more informed decisions,” says Razvi.

The SAC said in February its goals for the next decade are to provide the building blocks necessary to help the industry make smarter and more informed decisions about the products it makes.