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Goodbye Higg Co, Hello…Worldly?

Higg Co is no more.

The technology platform that hosts the popular Higg Index suite of social and environmental measurement tools is rebranding to Worldly, a move that it said it made, in part, to cut the confusion over who the organization is and what it does.

The Higg Index, which is owned by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the trade group from which Higg Co spun off in 2019, will retain its name. The SAC will also retain a shareholder stake in the new company.

Riffing off a reporter’s analogy, Jason Kibbey, Worldly’s CEO, compared the SAC to a movie studio and Worldly to Netflix. Worldly will continue to “broadcast” the SAC’s “films,” i.e. the Higg Index, to which it holds an exclusive license, but it might also do the same for a different “studio.” And, should it spy a gap in the market, it will create “films” of its own.

The latter point, fueled by heated conversations over the past year about the Higg Materials Sustainability Index’s ability to accurately capture a material’s footprint, is another reason for the identity change, Kibbey said. Higg Co, he said, realized it needed to be more of an intelligence hub, one with the flexibility to evolve in line with changing market and regulatory demands.

“Like where is the world going in terms of data and claims and making [them] actionable?” he asked. “And I think what we recognized is that we actually needed to be building some new tools that would allow a lot of the parts of the value chain that have just not been touched yet.”

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These include what Kibbey described as the “huge percentage” of Tier 2 production, which includes yarn spinning and fabric milling, that’s never been measured in terms of carbon, water and even social impact. That’s data that needs to be freed, he said.

“We started hearing requests from our customers and hearing from some of the factories that they wanted something really light and easy that could get carbon and water data quickly,” he said. “And so we knew that we actually needed to launch this as a new product and launch other new products to meet the challenges of due diligence as well as other things that are going to be outside of the Higg index [but] still very complementary.”

Worldly’s “All Quiet on the Western Front,” to continue the Netflix analogy, is the Factory Data Solution, which it says is an “industry-first” effort to capture and share real-time utility bill data from factories across the supply chain. It has tapped inspection and certification giant SGS to help it determine the accuracy of the data at scale, though it may recruit others as the scheme grows.

As Higg Co, Worldly had been collecting utility bill data for many years, only “in summary,” Kibbey said. Factories, he added, were telling the organization that they wanted a simple way to validate and share that data that takes a few minutes a month rather than a “large annual reporting process.” Brands were also looking for ways to understand their supply chain—what’s getting better, what’s getting worse and where they can target investments to drive the biggest improvements, he said.

“One of the things is that the reporting burden on the factories is pretty heavy and often really complicated,” Kibbey said. “And we just wanted to make this as absolutely simple as possible so that they can be demonstrating their impact really quickly without hundreds of hours of work. We just want them to be able to do it in a few minutes.”

Kibbey said he expects several thousand factories to get on board with the tool over the next year. In time, however, he hopes it will become “ubiquitous” and “reach a lot of the corners of the fashion industry that just haven’t been touched.”

“[A question like] how many factories are there is even hard to ,” he said. “A lot of that is because there are a lot of these smaller upstream suppliers that are doing the knitting or the spinning for the thread or they’re doing the dyeing or the finishing that are kind of off-grid. And they can often be invisible in the value chain and that is who we really want to target with this.”

To be sure, the Factory Data Solution isn’t a means to an end in itself, Kibbey said. What Wordly hopes for is that it spurs more and faster investment.

“If we can really show where essentially investment and where changes are making a difference, we really hope that that unlocks more capital to create more change because the need for vast decarbonization across the value chain is really critical,” he said.

The “pressure for change” from stakeholders, customers and even internally from within a company has “never been stronger,” Kibbey said.

“What we really need now is help in figuring out how do you accelerate that change,” he said. “Where do you make investments? How do you actually know that when you’re you’re putting money and time into changing your value chain, that it’s moving the needle?”

So why “Worldly”?

“One of the reasons for the relaunch is I think we’re walking into a world where regulations such as mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence value chains [are] going to become a norm, and so brands who may have just been thinking that sustainability is nice to have, are now going to integrate this with into their business practices,” Kibbey said. “They need essentially systems and platforms that allow them to do that.”

It’s “no secret” that brands are coming up short on their carbon ambitions, he said.

“Ultimately we want to support the whole fashion sector and other consumer goods sectors in actually catching up with the science-based targets that they’re falling behind on because we need to see acceleration right now,” Kibbey said. “I want to continue to be an optimist.”