Tool launched to test clothing supply chain sustainability

27 July 2012

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27 July 2012 | Kamalpreet Badasha

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has launched the ‘Higg Index’, an online self-assessment tool to measure the sustainability of clothing and footwear supply chains.

The free tool, which has been developed with the support of clothing manufacturers such as Adidas and the US retailer Target, can be downloaded from the website. It requires users to answer questions regarding the life cycle of their products from materials to manufacturing, including packaging and transportation.

"We are confident it will have a positive impact on product sustainability over time, and become a model for how industries can collaborate in making a positive impact on value chain performance," said Jason Kibbey, SAC executive director.

The Index covers categories including water use and quality, energy and greenhouse gas, waste, chemicals and toxicity. It allows companies to assess the environmental impact of their supply chain with the aim of increasing long-term sustainability by providing a score.

The Index was developed following a year-long pilot which examined 150 products from 63 companies. “During months of pilot testing, we have already been able to use the Higg Index as an environmental indicator in the production of many of our products by all brands," said Karin Ekberg, group head of environmental services at Adidas. "We intend for the Higg Index to form an increasingly important part of our overall product creation and production strategy in the years to come."

The Index is based on the Eco Index and Nike's Environmental Apparel Design Tool. The next version of the Higg Index is set to be released in 2013 and will include social and labour metrics. The long-term aspiration is to use the index to develop a consumer-facing rating for products.

“Target currently uses the Higg Index within parts of our supply chain," said Scott Lercel, director of social responsibility and sustainability. “This tool allows our teams to make better decisions, improve our supply chain and, most importantly, reduce our impact on the global environment.”

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