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SAN FRANCISCO – The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has updated its Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), a tool which attempts to help the apparel, footwear, and textile industry to assess the environmental impact of materials used in global manufacturing. The Higg MSI now features 80 base materials, including cotton, polyester, and silk. The update includes a new feature that enables suppliers to share sustainability performance information about their materials with brands and retailers. It is hoped such upstream communication will “promote greater transparency and improved sustainability performance within the industry.”

In terms of sustainability scoring, polyester is the highest ranked material in the scoring system – despite ongoing concerns about microfibre pollution – with leather and alpaca wool ranked lowest in the system. Conventionally grown cotton also scores poorly.

“With the opportunity to play a key role in determining a product’s sustainability performance, being a designer today is really exciting,” SAC CEO Jason Kibbey said. “With the Higg MSI, product designers can access an incredible amount of information, and then use it to significantly reduce environmental impacts of materials production.”

Higg MSI assesses a material’s environmental performance and scores the results. Calculations account for energy, water, chemistry, and additional impacts used in material production, with the aim of giving designers greater insight in creating more sustainable apparel.

Originally called the Nike Considered Index, the Higg MSI originated at Nike a decade ago. In seeing the benefit global collaboration would bring ongoing development and industry-wide use of the Higg MSI, Nike contributed the tool to the SAC in 2012. It is now one of the six tools comprising the Higg Index.

“The Higg MSI has helped us make better choices to reduce our product footprint by providing critical insight and transparency into materials and processing decisions,” Joël Mertens, material technologies integrity engineer at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), said. “We firmly believe that the Higg MSI can support other companies to achieve better, more benign products and manufacturing practices.”

“Across VF Corporation and our brands, we integrate material sustainability metrics into design decisions,” Sean Cady, vice president, global responsible sourcing at VF Corporation, said. “The Higg MSI provides an objective, comparable metric, which informs our material choices and allows us to meet consumer expectation and brand promises.”

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