The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which is an independent organisation that aims to enable positive social and environmental impact at scale within the apparel sector, published its Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) 4.0 Technical Paper last month, which includes changes based on member feedback.

The Higg FEM 4.0 will officially be released in November 2023, but the SAC has given access to users early via its website to provide transparency and help them to prepare for the new version.

SAC explains the Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM) 4.0 will continue to be a sustainability assessment tool that standardises how facilities measure and evaluate their environmental performance, year-over-year. It facilitates conversations among value chain partners to improve sustainability in every tier of the global value chain, and empowers them to identify, prioritise and scale sustainability efforts.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s VP at Higg Index, Jeremy Lardeau says: “The release of this technical paper and the changes we have made to the Higg FEM are a huge milestone for the SAC and industry at large, and are a testament to our commitment to collaborate with experts and collect feedback so as to improve our tools to drive greater impact. Only through these joint efforts can we radically transform the industry and play our part in addressing the climate crisis.” 

The latest version of Higg FEM is based on member feedback that was collected during the latest version cycle from brands, retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other international organisations.

SAC says the work included reviewing tool feedback, the FEM framework, FEM scoring methodology, FEM question content, and more. 

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The new requirements for the Higg FEM will be implemented from 2023 and the updated tool will be released on the Higg platform in November for facilities to work on their self-assessment for the performance year 2023, with content training planned throughout 2023 to provide users a better understanding of the tool. 

The major changes in Higg FEM 4.0 include:

  • New questions on phasing out coal and other fossil fuels and on using renewable energy and Science-Based Targets have been added
  • Questions around wastewater sludge management have been added, and these are aligned with Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) guidance
  • Questions aligning with Scope 1 & Scope 2 GHG Emission calculations per GHG Protocol have been included
  • Categorisation of refrigerant gasses has been enhanced to accurately calculate GHG emissions from potential leakages
  • Questions around groundwater management and usage are now included, including tracking consumption and meeting legally-mandated groundwater extraction limits
  • Facilities that manufacture final, finished products and fabric in the same facility will need to track and report their energy and water consumption data separately. 

Delman Lee, vice chair at TAL Apparel, and SAC board chair adds: “As a collective action coalition, representing half of the apparel, footwear and textile sector, the SAC has a pivotal role to play in helping to move the industry forward and in tackling the climate crisis. And, as a manufacturer, we welcome the release of this technical paper and believe the latest Higg FEM version will be instrumental in helping us deliver on our climate goals.”

Through this update, the SAC believes it has enhanced the applicability methodology in FEM 4.0, allowing facilities across multiple industry sectors and tiers to evaluate their environmental performance in an effective manner.

SAC says the questions developed have been built specifically to cater for additional industry sectors, such as the outdoor sporting and hardgoods facilities, as well as facilities that produce man-made cellulose fibre. 

The Higg FEM, which was built collectively with industry stakeholders, was first publicly released in 2012 and has undergone several updates over the years, with SAC members providing valuable knowledge that has informed methodology updates. This has ensured the tool is relevant, scalable and successful in solving the most pressing environmental issues.

Last month the SAC announced that all of its members will be required to commit and set Science Based Targets (SBTs) from 2023 under a new Decarbonization Program, aimed at driving the sector to work toward emissions reduction.

In November 2022, at an in-person meeting held in Singapore, the SAC also urged industry collaboration on tackling “systemic sustainability and human rights issues” as the climate crisis gathered momentum.