New Sustainability Index to Make Fashion Green Without the Envy
Jul 26, 2012 - by Lester Brathwaite
Fashion is not particularly known for its eco-friendliness. It may have something to do with the occasional sweatshop scandal, or the luxury industry's rather conspicuous consumption, or just the fact that sustainability is kind of boring. Well, whatever it is, a new index will help brands go green as well as alert consumers of their amiability with the environment.
It's called the Higgs Index -- named after the Higgs boson, "a long-sought-after and recently discovered elementary particle that is believed to give all things mass." Whatever. But it promises to help the fashion industry effectively measure its carbon footprint.
So far, over 63 companies have been beta-testing the Higgs Index including Adidas, Gap, H&M, J.C. Penney, Nike, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart. Together they represent more than a third of the apparel and footwear industry and more importantly it represents a concerted effort at sustainability.
Based on the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index and Nike's Material Assessment Tool, the Index takes into account water use and quality, energy and greenhouse gas, waste, chemicals and toxicity with social and labor issues being added next year.
The Higgs Index consists of three parts:
A brand module that zeros in on details such as how goods are designed and whether or not product life cycle, transportation and the use of restricted substances are taken into account.
A product module that looks at the sustainability of fabrics, how much waste is left on the cutting-room floor, what finishes are used and so on.
A facilities module that examines areas such as how factories deal with wastewater and how much energy is consumed.
While the fashion industry can't be expected to change its stripes overnight -- that takes at least a season -- the Higgs Index is a step in the right direction towards a more sustainable future. And that step's carbon footprint, even if made by a $700 pump, will decrease in size eventually.[WWD, sub req'd]