More than 500 global brands have committed to using the latest version of the Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM), a value chain sustainability assessment tool released this week by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and its technology partner, Higg.
Among the companies that will use the Higg BRM over the next two years to gain a deeper understanding of their own operations and their value chain practices are Walmart, Patagonia, Nike Inc., H&M and VF Corp. The goals of these brands and retailers is improving social and environmental impacts and working together to combat the climate crisis.
Through June 30, SAC member brands and retailers have the opportunity to use the Higg BRM to self-assess the social and environmental sustainability performance of their 2020 business and value chain operations. Then, from May to December, companies have the option to verify their self-assessments through an approved third-party verification body.
One of the five Higg Index sustainability measurement tools, the Higg BRM enables evaluation of the social and environmental impacts of brands across a wide range of business operations, from packaging and transportation of goods, to the environmental impact of stores and offices and the well-being of factory employees. The assessment measures 11 environmental impact areas and 16 social impact areas.
Through the Higg sustainability platform, companies of all sizes can uncover opportunities to improve their supply chains, from lowering carbon emissions to reducing water use and ensuring supply chain workers are treated fairly.
“As part of our sustainability strategy, ‘do.MORE,’ we have committed to continuously increase our ethical standards and by 2023 only work with partners who align with them,” said Kate Heiny, director of sustainability at Zalando SE. “We are excited to be collaborating with the SAC to scale a global standard around measurement of brand performance. By using the Higg BRM as the basis for our mandatory brand assessments, we have comparable sustainability data at brand level to jointly develop standards that move us forward as an industry.”
In Europe, where corporate sustainability is at the forefront of the regulatory agenda, businesses must ensure their operations follow responsible practices. Companies can use the Higg BRM to get ahead of the curve when it comes to future legislative regulations. They can evaluate their value chain practices and their partners’ practices against the baseline of the anticipated policy following the OECD Due Diligence guidance for the apparel and footwear sector.
The latest version of the Higg BRM features a responsible purchasing practices section, emphasizing the importance of integrating due diligence into sourcing decision-making processes. This update reflects the evolving nature of the Higg Index, and the SAC’s and Higg’s commitment to transforming consumer goods industries through the Higg tools and technology. By design, the tools will continue to evolve, leveraging new data, technology, and regulations to help brands identify key risks and opportunities to reduce impact.
Another new feature of Higg BRM is its alignment with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), facilitating the streamlining of data entry around carbon emissions. The CDP supports thousands of companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their risks and opportunities on climate change, water security and deforestation.
When companies use Higg, they will save time on carbon data collection, alleviating reporting fatigue. They can increasingly use Higg as a “one-stopshop” for sustainability assessment and data analytics and leverage comprehensive insights without having to duplicate efforts already undertaken for other assessments.
To gain the most out of the Higg tools and accelerate sustainability improvement, companies integrate them into their internal supply chain and product life cycle management systems through API technology. Future plans for the Higg BRM include integration with other Higg tools and systems to further simplify data collection efforts while providing a full view of end-to-end supply chain impacts and improvement opportunities.
“Benetton Group is dedicated to becoming an agent of social and environmental change, creating increasingly sustainable products and promoting the development of individuals and their communities,” said Roberto Taiariol, internal audit and sustainability director for Benetton Group. “We use the Higg BRM as a tool to measure the social and environmental performance of our value chain and to plan for the future. Over the coming years, sustainability will be a driver of development and the BRM assessment will help us invest in more sustainable products, build a supply chain that is even more respectful of the environment and workers’ rights, make our stores and campus more energy efficient, and commit to reduce waste.”
Elevate joins SAC
Separately, Elevate Textiles announced it has joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).
Elevate, which owns brands including American & Efird (A&E), Burlington, Cone Denim, Gütermann and Safety Components, joins more than 250 global brands, retailers and manufacturers, as well as government, non-profit environmental organizations and academic institutions that are collectively committed to improving supply chain sustainability in the apparel, footwear and textile industry.
In its relationship with SAC, Elevate will contribute data and resources to support the Higg Index, a tool that Elevate brands have been using since 2014, including the more recent addition of independently verified self-audits.
“Elevate and its brands share a long-standing commitment to being a leader in the development of sustainable products,” Jimmy Summers, Elevate’s chief sustainability officer, said. “We work with many partners to continuously identify and lead various initiatives and we are pleased to add the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to the industry initiatives in which we take part. By joining SAC, we are further committing to implement the Higg suite of tools in our supply chain, and to be a part of further developments and expansion of the use of the tools in the industry. We look forward to many opportunities to drive increased sustainability through meaningful collaborations across the textile and apparel industries.”
As part of Elevate’s commitment to positively impact the people and natural environments associated with its operations and supply chain, Elevate established its 2025 Sustainability Goals focused on sustainably sourced fibers, reduced water consumption and reduction in greenhouse gases. The company has also joined with other industry leaders as a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, upholding the highest principles and working in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In addition, Elevate contributes toward many other efforts, including the ZDHC Program and UN CEO Water Mandate, and has committed to set greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets as a part of the Science Based Targets Initiative.
“We welcome the addition of Elevate Textiles to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and look forward to its participation in this industrywide effort in sustainability,” SAC executive director Amina Razvi said. “Having Elevate and each of its top textile brands as part of the coalition widens the scope of our impact within the industry and accelerates the change we’re making towards responsible industry actions.”