The latest version of the tool, developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and unveiled on December 11, has been 18 months in the making, the group says.

And it is backed by clothing and footwear firms including Nike, Marks & Spencer, Levi Strauss, Walmart, Adidas, VF Corp, and H&M Hennes & Mauritz.

The updated Higg Index 2.0 is intended to help firms measure – and ultimately reduce – the environmental and social impacts of their global production by allowing them to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and sustainability rankings. 

“Not only have we expanded the Index to be more comprehensive, but we’ve also added a new level of engagement where our members can interact and share knowledge and assessments on a level that hasn’t been done before, and speed the adoption of sustainable measures within the value chain,” said SAC Executive Director, Jason Kibbey.

The new web-based version of the Index has been developed by energy management specialist Schneider Electric, and lets users share sustainability data across the entire supply chain for what is thought to be the first time.

Not only should this help increase accuracy and add measurability for new materials and processes, but it also allows for greater transparency and validation.

The Index has also expanded its sustainability coverage by adding modules to assess social and labour impacts for manufacturers and brands. While this content is currently in the beta phase, there are plans to expand it in future iterations of the Higg Index.

And for the first time a footwear brand module is added to the platform, which allows footwear facilities to be assessed.

The Index has also enhanced its environmental content by improving brand and facility assessments and considering chemical impacts.

The Chemicals Management Module of the Index was co-created with the Outdoor Industry Association, while the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) has been expanded to include sustainability metrics on 45 materials.

“This latest iteration of the Higg Index is a great next step for our members and for the industry as a whole,” Kibbey added.  

“The revisions and additions that we made in this new version significantly improve the way sustainability is assessed. Also, we understand that successfully addressing sustainability requires a new form of collaboration, and the Higg Index 2.0 facilitates the engagement process. 

“For the first time ever, users can interact through our platform and share sustainability information with each other in a very quick and simple way.

“With this new tool, we have the leverage to reach the tens of thousands of organisations in the supply chain who may not even know what sustainability is.”

The Higg Index was introduced in 2012 – and has since helped more than 100 companies to identify ways of reducing the environmental and social impacts of their apparel and footwear products and improve long-term sustainability.

The goal is to see it adopted across the industry and its entire supply chain – and ultimately boost supply chain transparency.

Members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) include brands, retailers, manufacturers, government and non-governmental organisations and academic experts – and are said to represent more than a third of the global apparel and footwear market.