Driving Change through Measurement: Higg Index by SAC

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By The Sustainable Angle

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is the apparel, footwear and home textile industry’s foremost alliance for sustainability across the entire supply chain, which focuses on developing the Higg Index, a standardized supply chain measurement tool for all levels of industry. The Sustainable Angle will be showcasing SAC at the 5th Future Fabrics Expo to help raise visibility if the coalition and its work, so ahead of this they spoke to Baptiste Carrière-Pradal, VP Europe, to find out more about SAC and the Higg Index.

TSA: Can you tell us a bit about the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and what it set out to do?

SAC: The Coalition’s main focus is on defining a common language for our industry: the Higg Index, a standardized supply chain measurement tool for all industry participants to understand the environmental and social and labor impacts of making and selling their products and services. By measuring sustainability performance, the industry can collaboratively address inefficiencies, resolve damaging practices, and achieve the environmental and social transparency that consumers are starting to demand. By joining forces in a Coalition, we can address the urgent, systemic challenges that are impossible to change alone. A common language is also the first step to efficient transparency.

SAC3TSA: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition represents more than a third of the global apparel and footwear market, which signifies a massive number of companies and products. What do you feel this means for the potential for SAC to have a positive impact on the fashion and textiles industry, from a retailer’s and consumer’s perspective?

SAC: The urgency and expanse of the sustainability issues facing the apparel, footwear and home textiles industries requires collective attention on a global scale. This is why collaboration is the heartbeat of the SAC. This collaboration enables brand to shift resources from measuring their impact to improving their social and environmental impacts. Sharing best practices allows members to implement sustainability strategies that are already tried-and-tested by their peers, saving considerable time, money and resources.

Through the SAC, member driven, some of the world’s most recognized apparel brands have created the Higg, and are now deploying it in their supply chain. This cost-effective sharing can be especially beneficial to small and medium-sized businesses that also use the SAC to source supply chain partners with exceptional credentials.

Brands and retailers join the SAC for access to the essential resources and support they need to credibly and effectively meet their sustainability goals. They use the Higg Index to radically simplify the process of measuring, sharing and benchmarking sustainability performance at every stage of product lifecycles or the retail value chain. This helps to precisely identify areas requiring improvement and highlight robust actions to take. Brands and retailers also join the Coalition to be part of the apparel, footwear and home textiles industry’s largest and most diverse network of people, companies, and organizations focused on creating transformative change.

Finally, our members are paving the way to transparency. Once a common language will be used in the supply chain it will become the standard to communicate about factory, product and brand performance with all of the industry stakeholders.

Manufacturers join the SAC to improve their sustainability performance using the Coalition’s suite of assessment tools, The Higg Index. The Higg Index radically simplifies and standardizes the process of measuring sustainability performance and sharing it with current and future partners for faster, easier evaluations. Manufacturers also join the Coalition to be part of the apparel, footwear and home textiles industry’s largest and most diverse network of players focused on creating transformative change.

SAC4TSA: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition developed the Higg Index, which is a tool for measuring both the environmental and the social performance of apparel. Can you explain how it works, and how it could be used to assess the sustainability of textiles?

SAC: The centerpiece of the SAC is The Higg Index, a suite of ground-breaking assessment tools that empower brands, retailers, and manufacturers to measure their environmental and social and labor impacts at every stage of the lifecycle and value chain, and then demonstrate the data in a standardized and simplified way.

For those just starting to implement sustainable practices, The Higg Index guides their important first steps, helping to distinguish strengths and weaknesses in the supply chain.

For those already deeply engaged, it has more advanced potential, such as benchmarking sustainability performance against other SAC members, identifying macro risks and performing targeted research and analytics.

SAC5 at the Future Fabrics ExpoTSA: The fashion and textiles industries are globalized on a huge scale, and one of the most environmentally impactful industries out there. What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges that we are facing in the industry?

SAC: We have at the SAC an holistic view on those challenges, considering that each of the topics has a consequence on others and that it is only on the long run that we will collectively more towards a more sustainable industry.

TSA: Where do you see the most potential for change in the fashion and textiles industries?

SAC: Much progress has been made in the past decade on specific topics. However, the potential for change is huge, with a better integration of the sustainability challenges and opportunities upstream, for instance at designer level.

SAC6 at the Future Fabrics ExpoTSA: How can industry professionals and consumers get involved and engage with the work you are doing?

SAC: Open access to the individuals and organizations driving the shift to sustainable production is perhaps the greatest reward for joining the SAC. Members commit to radical cooperation to meet shared goals, peers and competitors share tried-and-tested practices and sustainability leaders help new adopters map the path forward. SAC members inform, invigorate and sustain each other along the challenging road of transforming sustainability goals into realities.

No company alone can shift the existing industry paradigms. To ignite the change required to redefine the way the industry is run, peers and competitors come together as a united front, adhering to the Coalition’s set of core collaboration values that are designed to further impactful change across the industry. Through SAC membership, brands, retailers and manufacturers commit to transparency and the sharing of best practices, a full-circle collaboration that benefits all involved.

While collaboration is often equated with bottlenecks and roadblocks—the opposite of targeted and effective forward momentum—the SAC has cultivated an ethos of “perfect is the enemy of good enough.” This philosophy ensures that the sharing of numerous perspectives doesn’t interfere with progress. Though the ideal solution may yet to be found, adequate alignment around next steps is good enough to keep going. This dedication to moving ahead allows the Coalition to develop and share practical tools that support the industry’s sustainability goals in a timely manner.

All images sourced from http://apparelcoalition.org

*This story first appeared on The Sustainable Angle.

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