News Article

What’s the buzz about Higg Index? Creating consumer-facing transparency

As a company of our size, we know our impact is big – our responsibility, even bigger. So, when it comes to re-writing our planet’s future, we focus on changing industry standards. Learn how H&M Group is collaborating with SAC and applying the new Higg Index Sustainability Profiles to create more consumer-facing transparency and a common language for collective action.

Picture your favourite T-shirt: its colour, its shape, all the stains (read: memories) acquired over the years, and how soft it is. Got it? Great. Now, picture its environmental impact: the materials featured, the water used to dye those materials and the fossil fuels used to produce them. Harder to do, right?  

Fortunately, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s (SAC) is trying to fix that with a new transparency program and a score-card system called the Higg Index Sustainability Profiles– and the first of H&M Group’s brands getting on board is H&MSo, the next time you picture your favourite T-shirt, you can picture its environmental impact too.   

Giorgina Waltier and Anna Eklöf Asp, Transparency Leads at H&M Group, know all about how H&M brand is collaborating with the SAC and the new Higg Index Sustainability Profiles. Together with multiple colleagues and functions, they have worked collaboratively across H&M Group and H&M over the last 12 months to get the new Higg Index Sustainability Profiles off the ground.

Giorgina Waltier and Anna Eklöf Asp, Transparency Leads at H&M Group.

The Basics

Let’s start with the SAC, what is it?

Giorgina Waltier: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) are a global multi-stakeholder non-profit alliance. For the last ten years, they have been working to create a unified way for the industry (brands, retailers and manufacturers alike) to measure and share environmental impact data related to their products.   

What is the goal?

Giorgina Waltier:  A common language for collective action. Unifying measurements for social and environmental impact create a common language for how we – brands, manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike – measure impact, track progress and communicate information, making collective action towards a sustainable future that much easier.    

What is the Higg Index?

Anna Eklöf Asp: The Higg Index is a suite of measurement tools developed by the SACtogether, they assess the environmental and social performance of both value chains and products. Each tool focuses on measuring a different parameter.”

“For example, one tool focuses on the environmental impact of manufacturing facilities (Higg FEM), helping manufacturers, brands, and retailers identify opportunities for sustainability improvements. Another focuses on the social impact of facilities (Higg FSLM), assisting companies to create safe and healthy environments with fair pay. Another measures and scores the environmental impact of materials (Higg MSI).”

“While H&M Group has been working with the Higg Index tools for many yearsthe results derived from them have never been customer-facing – until now. 

… The goal? A common language for collective action.”

Giorgina Waltier, Transparency Lead, H&M Group

The Initiative

What are Higg Index Sustainability Profiles?

Anna Eklöf Asp: The new Higg Index Sustainability Profiles are on-producenvironmental performance scorecardsthey are the first version of the SAC’s new Transparency Program, which offers customers greater transparency at a product level without overloading them with complex information and different expressions of sustainability.”

“The profiles currently focus on sharing information about the environmental impacts of the materials in a product by sharing data from the Higg MSI tool in a consumer-facing scorecard. These scores, or sustainability profiles, will appear on selected product-detail pages on hm.com, allowing consumers to see how the materials in certain products impact the environment. The idea is to expand the scorecards to include more environmental and social impact data soon. 

Scores, or sustainability profiles, will appear on selected product-detail pages on hm.com

So the Higg Index Sustainability Profiles are what H&M is launching? 

Giorgina Waltier: H&M is applying Higg Index Sustainability Profiles to a selected number of products online, from H&M’s Women’s and Kid’s Summer 2021 collections; each of these products will be given a score from ‘baseline’ to ‘3’ based on the environmental impact of the materials featured in it.”

“Baseline scores are given to products made from or with similar environmental impacts to conventional materialsScores of 1, 2, and 3 are assigned to products made with more sustainable material. The lower the impact, the higher the score, so products scoring level 3 are made from materials with the lowest environmental impact. Customers can also find detailed information related to global warming potential, water pollution, and fossil fuel use on each product. 

Anna Eklöf Asp:It has been an incredible H&M Group team effort along the way! The product story team conceptualized the design and functionality of the online display. The Production Office verified the material content of every product. Our Sustainability department collaborated directly with the SAC to launch this program and ensure that it works for H&M.” 

“We then worked with our data experts, material experts, web producers and global and retail market communications teams to make sure that we could launch successfully. We will continue working with this fantastic group of people to continue scaling up the Sustainability Profiles across more of our products.”

How do the Higg Index Sustainability Profiles convey so much information to consumers clearly?  

Giorgina Waltier: Higg Index Sustainability Profiles are designed to have multiple layers so that customers can choose how much information they want to see about the environmental impact of the materials in a product.”

“The initial layer shows the product score; clicking through, they will see more detailed data about the individual environmental impacts, like water pollution and fossil fuel usage. A third layer allows consumers to view highly detailed raw Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data.”

“Again, they are designed to be useful for consumers with differing levels of interest and knowledge. We should also remember that this is only the first version of the Higg Index Sustainability Profile; it will continue to improve and evolve as we learn how our customers interact with the profiles along the way.”

This is only the first version of the Higg Index Sustainability Profile – it will continue to improve and evolve.

A crash course to:

The Higg Index   

The Higg Index is a suite of measurement tools developed by the SAC. Together, they assess the environmental and social performance of both value chains and products. Each tool focuses on measuring a different parameter.  

The Higg Index Sustainability Profiles   

Higg Index Sustainability Profiles are the first version of the SAC’s new Transparency Program, which offers customers greater transparency at a product level without overloading them with complex information and different expressions of sustainability. These profiles translate some of the data collected by the Higg Index MSI tool into an easy-to-read scorecard.  

Where will Higg Index Sustainability Profile launch?  

To start, Higg Index Sustainability Profiles will be available on a small number of H&M products online across all European markets and the U.S.

It would be great to link our physical products in-store to Higg Index Sustainability Profiles in the future. Still, for now, we are focusing on scaling our online application as quickly as possible. Our ambition is to feature Sustainability Profiles on as many products as possible during 2022”, says  Giorgina Waltier.

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