The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is an initiative of Walmart and Patagonia. In a joint letter in 2009, both companies invited CEOs of leading global companies to jointly develop an index that would measure the environmental impact of their products. This initiative led to the formation of SAC in 2010 and the first version of the Higg Index in 2011. Seat of the non-profit organization is located in San Francisco, USA.
The name Higg is said to be inspired by the search for the Higgs particle from particle physics, which is changing the understanding of our universe and science. Accordingly, the Higg Index is about finding the part within the value chain that changes sustainability.
The Higg Index is a tool for the apparel and footwear industry to assess sustainability throughout a product's life cycle - from materials to end of life. As a web-based optimization tool, the index is constantly evolving. Right from the start, it was divided into three modules - the Brand Module, a Facility Module and a Product Module. In 2016, the Design and Development module was added, which helps to make sustainable decisions as early as the design and development process. Each of these modules influences the sustainability of products.
2020 sees the publication of a new version of the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), the leading instrument for assessing the environmental impact of materials in the apparel, footwear and textile industries. The Higg MSI can calculate the environmental impact of millions of possible material manufacturing variants. A packaging library has also been added, which can be used to make sustainable decisions in the packaging sector.
Thus, the Higg Index is not a certificate or label, but an important self-assessment tool that apparel companies can use internally to identify and improve environmental and social problems throughout their entire value chain.