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The Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Updated Transparency Tool Promises to Reduce Audit Fatigue

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is equipping apparel, footwear and textile manufacturing facilities with its updated Higg FEM tool—which it says will further reduce audit fatigue and boost transparency.

On Wednesday, the SAC launched the early registration of the Higg Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM), which will standardize sustainability measurement for factories worldwide. The Higg FEM will allow factories, regardless of their location and size, to evaluate their sustainability performance and seamlessly share results with their supply chain partners. With the Higg FEM, brands, factories and supply chain partners can collaborate on transparency efforts, while minimizing their carbon footprint and upholding fair labor practices.

“At the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we value partnership and collaboration, and depend on these values to move the industry forward. The improved Higg Facility Environmental Module breaks down silos created by the lack of transparency in our industry,” SAC CEO Jason Kibbey said. “With the Higg FEM, supply chain partners can better see one another’s performance and make valuable sustainability improvements in factories around the world.”

The updated Higg FEM enables businesses at every tier in the value chain to collectively improve their performance by reducing the negative environmental effects of manufacturing, transitioning to more cost-effective operations and providing better communication between involved parties. To date, the Higg FEM is used by more than 8,000 businesses worldwide and further reduces audit fatigue with increased analytics. Using this data, the Higg FEM assesses chemical management and measures emissions, waste and water use—so brands, manufacturers and retailers can work together to evaluate the environmental performance of their factories and make necessary improvements.

Additional features of the Higg FEM include a new chemicals management section, which was co-created by the SAC and other compliance authorities—including the Outdoor Industry Association and the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program—and a more personalized compliance process that benchmarks businesses based on their individual needs. Third-party auditors approved by the SAC will also confirm data submitted by each factory, to ensure score accuracy and ongoing transparency progress.

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[Read more on the Higg Index: SAC Debuts New Version of the Higg Materials Sustainability Index]

Even though public registration for the Higg FEM opens on Dec. 4, manufacturers who already use the Higg Index may register early to use the tool. Also in December, brands will also be able to leverage SAC’s entire suite of Higg tools, including the updated Higg FEM, through SAC’s small medium enterprise (SME) model. SAC believes that tools, including the Higg FEM, have the potential to make the apparel industry more sustainable and transparent. Using a new campaign called Link by Link, the SAC is urging its 200 plus members to incorporate the tool throughout their international factory networks. SAC aims to have 400 brands use the Higg FEM by the end of next year.

“The theory of change of the SAC is straightforward and profound: putting standardized sustainability measurements that are both deep and profound in the hands of key decision-makers in the apparel and footwear value chain will incentivize them to make better decisions that collectively reduce the environmental impact and increase the social justice of the entire industry,” said Rick Ridgeway, VP of public engagement at Patagonia, an SAC member. “With Higg FEM, the Coalition has taken the biggest step yet towards proving that theory, and showing the world how the industry that started the industrial revolution is leading the world into the sustainability revolution.”