The SAC announced the third-party review in 2022 after criticism of the Higg Index by industries and consumer organisations. KPMG was commissioned for the review, recruiting a panel of 10 experts.

The review focused on the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) and the Higg Product Module (PM).

Among its findings, KPMG observed divergent views from experts on how to practically apply LCA methodology, while they also could not agree on the quality and availability of data needed for the tool. Additionally, they had many conversations on the need for appropriate LCA knowledge when using the tools to correctly interpret the results.

The experts further recognised the limitations of LCAs in accounting for all impacts of materials and products, and the need for further scientific progress to include all impact areas (e.g. biodiversity, microplastics etc.).

Meanwhile, the review found that the Higg MSI and Higg PM were not fully in line with the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards.

Ultimately, the experts found that the Higg MSI should be integrated with the Higg PM and not used as independent tool, while warnings should be implemented in both to prevent inappropriate comparisons.

Additionally, greater transparency was recommended in allocation procedures, including providing an uncertainty analysis for the impacts of chosen procedures in the tools’ platform and uncertainty analysis of the underlying data.

Among the recommendations, the experts also noted that the “leather alternative” production phase should include more steps, currently represented in the Higg MSI methodology with only raw material source as a production phase. The report noted that more production phases should be displayed to provide a better assessment of such materials such as raw material processing and finished material processing, but acknowledged that leather alternatives are broad and difficult to cluster.

Following the report, SAC has announced that some changes are underway already, including:

  • Expanding the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) to add factory-specific data and improve geographical coverage in order to directly inform LCA data within the Product Tools
  • Actively working to improve data quality of the background datasets, specifically in cotton fibre and textile wet processing
  • Exploring the best way to fold the Higg MSI into the Higg PM, so that the material life cycle data is viewed as part of full product LCAs
  • Aligning with the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

The organisation has said it will continue implementing the recommendations, such as adding signals and warnings to front-end content, while others will require stakeholder engagement and research.

Jeremy Lardeau, VP of the SAC Higg Index, said: “Science isn’t static — and neither are we. The SAC is committed to the continued enhancement of the Higg Index tools, to better support the industry to achieve its sustainability goals. Through ongoing updates, our tools become more and more powerful to drive greater impact across the value chain.”

You can download the full technical review of the Higg MSI and Higg PM tools here.