WAKEFIELD – Ten years on from the foundation of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the latest edition of our Ecotextile Talks Radio Show examines the progress of the Higg Index suite of tools that it helped to create.
In this first episode of a series of broadcasts, our host, former BBC producer Phil Berman, speaks with SAC executive director Amina Razvi and Jason Kibbey, CEO of technology company Higg who talk candidly about how the fashion industry can measure its environmental and social performance, explain the more recent changes to the Higg Index, address some of the criticisms it has received in the past, and outline the next steps for scaling its use.
Kibbey said: “The Higg Index is now used by 25,000 organisations in this industry but it’s often misunderstood … so we thought now was the time, with so much interest in this topic, to dig into more of what we do, to dig into more about how these tools can be used ... and really explain how Higg can be a part of the solution for transforming this industry which is in desperate need of that.”
And Razvi agreed: “Sustainability is exploding right now and there has never been a better time to engage in this work and I think double down on efforts. Over the past 10 years, the work in the coalition has really focused on developing these tools and we’ve made a lot of progress.
“But I think last year, with the pandemic, has shown us we haven’t made enough progress and that it’s incredibly important for the industry to align around these efforts and collaborate much more deeply than we ever have in the past if we’re ever going to address the systemic challenges, we see ahead of us.”
The discussion goes on to cover issues including how the Higg Index tools were developed, why Higg was spun out from the SAC – and even how the Higg name was chosen.
Kibbey talked about the challenges of monitoring the social and environmental impacts of the estimated 50 – 60,000 facilities in the value chain of the global apparel and footwear industry covering tens of millions of items of clothing produced each year.
“This is fundamentally a technological challenge to collect that data, to share that data and get it in the hands of decision-makers so that people can make impactful decisions to change what we all recognise is a system that needs to change dramatically,” he said.
Berman asked both guests to identify what they saw as the biggest challenges facing the industry. Razvi spoke about the “lack of robust, credible data,” which she said the SAC and Higg were working hard to address.
Kibbey pinpointed the lack of a holistic, cohesive vision, arguing: “We can’t go down the road of every 10 minutes creating a new initiative with a new focus on a new concept.
“As long as every CEO and chief sustainability officer sees his or her own passion project as the next big thing, and we change direction constantly, we’re never going to see the holistic transformative change that we know needs to happen.”
To listen to the full, uninterrupted podcast, and to get links to your favourite platforms, click here.
The next episode will look at the Higg Material Sustainability Index (MSI) ...