The race is on to battle climate change in notable and impactful ways. While every citizen can help by reducing emissions and lowering their carbon footprint, the largest contributors to the problem are businesses. Even companies with good intentions when it comes to monitoring materials and manufacturing may be contributing to the problem more than they think. Higg is a technological solution to this problem that addresses the issue by providing a score for a product’s impact.
To understand the solution, we must first consider the problem. The life-cycle of a product begins with material selection, goes through production and moves onto delivery before it ever reaches consumer hands. Along the way, every decision can weigh heavily on the planet’s resources by stripping the land, using valuable resources like water and contributing to waste and pollution. Higg is a data-driven system that gives businesses the information they need when making eco-friendly decisions. This data allows them to avoid these contributing factors and instead rely on the most innovative solutions for a low carbon footprint at every level.
Higg CEO Jason Kibbey says, “Higg has spent the last couple years working with consumer goods facilities, brands, and retailers to collect valuable data that helps companies measure their social and environmental impacts in a comparable way.”
Higg works with companies to input and analyze data, giving them the power to better understand the environmental and social impact of each step in the cycle. Take, for example, a clothing company. With Higg tools, companies can measure the footprint of the plant where fabric is made. This includes water consumption, electrical usage, pollution and more. From there, the company can evaluate the manufacturing process of the product in the same categories and others, like wages, working conditions and safety. Post production, the clothing is shipped, so the analysis further tracks the impact of packaging, transport emissions and the environmental burden at the retail level.
The culmination of this information provides a critical tool for transparency in consumer goods industries. Providing a macro and micro view of the cradle-to-grave impact of individual products not only gives consumers more purchasing power but provides companies valuable, data-based information to share with investors, partners and customers.
“In order to achieve true sustainability change at the pace necessary to reach climate goals, consumer industries need access to rich, comparable, and actionable data. Without knowing true environmental performance, it’s impossible to know which steps companies should take to reduce impact, which actions make the biggest difference, or if industries are moving fast enough,” Kibbey added.
Along the way, the systems maintain a database of information that businesses can tap into when making decisions. For example, through data collection, a company can quickly see the energy efficiency of a particular manufacturing plant or compare the waste from different production facilities. Rather than individual reports that may be slanted in favor or disfavor of a particular company, Higg’s system is standardized for reliable comparisons of information that can be measured, managed and shared within and outside the company.
This information is a powerful tool in the effort to enable true sustainability in corporate actions. “Higg provides easily synthesized data which makes it simple for companies to take meaningful action towards positive environmental and social impacts,” Kibbey said.
While Higg is an essential tool for the decision-making process of eco-minded businesses, it’s equally valuable for the everyday consumer who is looking to make wise purchasing decisions. With these tools at its disposal, any apparel company can clean up its act. The information is now out there to understand a product’s impact. From there, it’s a company’s responsibility to evaluate and improve every step of its processes. This includes choosing the least-impactful materials to supporting manufacturing plants with fair trade policies and renewable energy investments to selecting packaging that is recycled and recyclable. With what equates to a sustainability score, consumers will be able to directly compare the actions of an increasing number of companies when choosing what products best align with their personal environmental goals.
Higg is a spinoff of a prior partnership between Patagonia and Walmart that set a mission to reduce the footprint of the apparel and footwear industries. This nonprofit industry association, called the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, resulted in the “development of the Higg Index, a suite of tools for the standardized measurement of supply chain sustainability,” according to Higg.
The team at Higg comes from varied backgrounds, yet they all center around the same belief in making it easier for businesses and consumers to contribute to the solutions for a sustainable future for the planet. Mimi Frusha, COO at Higg, says, “We have a global crisis on our hands. Being part of Higg is how I contribute to what we all have ahead of us.”
Josh Henretig, VP Global Partnerships, reinforces that thinking saying, “The urgency and complexity of the climate crisis is simply too large for any single organization to solve alone. We need the collective action of partnership and the speed and scale of technology if we are going to reverse the harmful impacts of human activity on the environment.”
Images via Higg