Learn more about the Higg MSI

What is the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI)?

The Higg MSI is a cradle-to-gate material scoring tool that:

  • Enables companies to compare their materials against others
  • Makes comparable environmental data available to the public
  • Can be used to empower product development teams to make more sustainable choices during materials selection

Why should I use it?

Today, companies are collecting an extraordinary amount of information from their supply chains, but they are using different methods and approaches to understand environmental impacts. This makes it impossible to compare environmental impacts of materials and empower the industry to make more sustainable choices.

The apparel, footwear, and home textile industry needs the ability compare materials and make informed choices that are more sustainable for the planet. The Higg MSI empowers this by measuring environmental impacts of material production in a common way.

The Higg MSI provides access to a large amount of relevant information about the impacts of material production. You can leverage the information in different ways to get a clear understanding of what is causing different types of material impacts, and different production processes that can be used to reduce those impacts.

How was it developed?

The Higg MSI was originally developed by Nike, and in 2012, it was adopted by the SAC and incorporated into the Higg Index. Since then, SAC members and LCA experts around the globe have been working to expand this index into a tool that can provide value for the entire industry.

What is the scope of the MSI?

The Higg MSI is a cradle-to-gate material scoring tool, which addresses impacts that range from the extraction or production of raw materials, through manufacture and finishing, to when the material that is ready to be assembled into a final product. The declared unit of the Higg MSI is one kilogram of material. Therefore, the Higg MSI allows the comparison of one kilogram of a specific material to one kilogram of another material.

Currently, there are 78 base materials, or typical, common materials that are automatically provided in the Material Library. There are 241 production processes/specifications that can be used to customize those base materials. Over 165,000 combinations of processes, or custom materials, are possible. This does not include blends or when more than one finish is combined (which would raise the number exponentially).

Does the Higg MSI help me evaluate my whole product?

The Higg MSI alone does not address the impacts of complete apparel, footwear, or home textile products. The Higg Design & Development Module (expected to launch in Fall 2016) and the Higg Product Footprint Module (pilot testing to begin in 2017) will consider apparel, footwear, or home textile product lifecycles, including product manufacturing, consumer use, and end of use in addition to material production. The Higg MSI informs the Higg Design & Development Module and the Higg Product Footprint Module Materials section only, in which users select materials with associated Higg MSI scores.

What are some limitations of the Higg MSI?

LCA is a useful tool, but extreme caution needs to be taken when making direct comparisons between material choices, technologies, and processes. There are many different data sources with different assumptions – most of which are defensible. The MSI uses a variety of data sources and assumptions that reflect the best available knowledge of the state of the apparel/footwear industry. However, there is inherent uncertainty in the results. As such, it is critical that users of the MSI understand that there are limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn. We encourage users to understand the data source and data quality associated with each process. This information can be found when you click on a specific process under the "Data Quality" section. Additionally, in the "Meta information" section for each specific process, we describe information relevant to the underlying data including the source, age of data, and geographical representativeness. We also encourage users to send us additional data sources and comments about existing data! We aim to keep updating the MSI to ensure that it represents the latest and greatest knowledge about materials, processes, and technologies in the industry.

How are materials scored?

The Higg MSI has three key components (see sections below for more information):

  1. Taxonomy: these are the industry rules for organization production phases processes so new data can be submitted logically into the framework (e.g,. leather processes include Country of Origin and Process, Tanning, Re-Tanning, Drying, Leather Finishing).
  2. Materials data: we define "data" as cradle-to-gate material production or life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) information. The Higg MSI database holds verified data for raw materials, various material production processes, and other material specifications.
  3. Scoring methodology: this is the method for turning raw data into scores. The Higg MSI uses a scoring framework to turn data into a single environmental score for a material.

How do I use the Higg MSI?

Using the Higg MSI is simple. Here are some things you can do:

  • Assess your materials to understand impacts: Customize your own materials to create blends and swap in/out specific production processes to match your company's material specifications.
  • Compare your materials to make better choices: Compare materials side by side to understand environmental tradeoffs between options.
  • Dive into data: Explore material scores and data sources.

SAC Member Value

If you're an SAC member, or if you're a small-medium brand or retailer with Higg access, you can create an account to get more functionality!

  • Go beyond materials to evaluate your Product Designs: Save custom materials and use those in the Higg DDM in order to understand how your material choices may influence your potential product footprint.
  • Export and integrate data: Export data to run more detailed analysis and/or use this information in your company's business systems (e.g., overlay environmental data with your company's costing and volume information to prioritize improvements).
  • See life cycle impact assessment results: Along with the metadata, members can see midpoints. These are the actual quantitative assessment results.

See a demonstration here:

Watch this video to learn how to create a Recycled Polyester:

Set up seasons in the Higg Product Tools

Security and Confidentiality

SAC agrees to:

  • Hold the data in strict trust and confidence.
  • Refrain from using or permitting others to use the data in any manner or for any purpose not expressly permitted by the Terms of Use.
  • Refrain from disclosing or permitting others to disclose the data to any third party without obtaining your express prior written consent on a case by case basis.
  • SAC may disclose data and authorize use of such data consistent with the Terms of Use with contractors and service providers who have executed an agreement imposing on the contractor obligations of confidentiality consistent with this provision.
  • SAC will protect the data from unauthorized use, access, or disclosure in the same manner as SAC protects its own confidential or proprietary information of a similar nature, and with no less than the greater of reasonable care and industry-standard care.
For more information, please refer to the Terms of Use and Security Overview below.

How can I improve the Higg MSI?

MSI uses the best available data today, but we are seeking more data to improve the MSI and fill gaps. Is MSI missing a process? Do you want to add your company's material? Submit your data for publication! Learn how to do that here.

How to get help

If you still need help, feel free to reach out to SAC at product@apparelcoalition.org or click on the Help widget in the lower right hand corner.

Some of your questions might also be answered by this FAQ video:

Recent and Upcoming Changes

Recent Changes:

Periodically the Higg MSI gets updated with new and improved data enhancements. This means that Higg MSI (and Higg DDM) may change and that new materials will be available to analyze and use in your designs and decision-making. On October 3rd SAC conducted the most recent update. Here are the changes that took place:

  • New data:
    • Typical footwear rubber compound: This new base material represents a rubber blend that is representative of what is typically used in footwear outsoles.
    • Toray processes:
      • Polyester filament textured yarn formation
      • Polyester filament weaving
      • Polyester filament woven fabric preparation
      • Polyester filament woven fabric coloration
  • Updated data (changes to already existing materials):
    • Synthetic leather
    • Added denier and cotton count to yarn and textile formation methods
  • Technology enhancements:
    • Users may now select more than one textile preparation process
    • Material manufacturers can now add data to the tool that isn't necessarily unique, but is specific to their facilities. Higg MSI users can show or hide this data depending on the level of detail they need. The new Toray data uses this functionality. See how it works here.

Upcoming Changes:

  • PLM Integration: An application programming interface (API) has been developed and is in the final testing phase. This API will enable the transfer of MSI data into company's internal systems, such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems (target timeline for API: October).
  • Performance Improvement Ideas: Add use cases to explain how different companies are implementing and leveraging information from the tool (target timeline for performance improvement use cases: end of 2017).
  • Material Sharing: This will allow Higg MSI users to share custom materials between accounts. Material vendors can send brands their material scores (target timeline for enhancement: Q1 2018).
  • Support: Work with qualified training partners to show SAC members and non-members how to use the tool (target timeline for added training and support: Q1 2018).
  • Getting Additional Data: New materials you can expect this year:
    • Alpaca
    • Regenerated cellulose from bamboo
    • Recycled down
    • Bio-based nylon
    • Recycled polyester plastic
      • Do you have data? If you have data you would like to add, please learn how at msicontributor.higg.org.