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 80 base materials, or typical, common materials that are automatically provided in the Material Library. There are 267 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.

Higg MSI Use Cases

Interested to learn how companies are using this tool in the real world? Check out use case summaries below to see how some SAC members are getting value from the tool.

Toray

As a producer of yarns, fabrics, and finished products of synthetic fibers, Toray was an ideal candidate for submitting data to the Higg MSI. The manufacturer's partially plant-based polyester filament fabric can be found in the Textiles section of the tool. Toray is eager to showcase its sustainable textiles and allow customers to compare them to textile options. Toray sees enormous value in the Higg MSI for the industry because the tool shows users how strategic material selection can significantly change the sustainability of products.

Patagonia

Patagonia's Material Innovation and Development team regularly uses the Higg MSI. The team recognizes the Higg MSI as the most applicable tool in the industry for evaluating the environmental impacts of materials. The environmental impacts linked to a brands business activities are broad, and often out of the brands direct control. One thing that consumer goods brands do have control over is the material designated to make their finished products. Patagonia assesses the environmental impacts of its materials using the Higg MSI, focusing analysis on the midpoint data (LCIA impacts) for carbon dioxide emissions and water use. The brand uses this data to understand the potential environmental impact reductions or increases that would result depending on the type of fiber used in a product (such as conventional fiber compared to their recycled or organic counterparts) and production processes (like different dyeing technologies). The MSI has reduced the need to conduct LCAs, saving Patagonia significant time and money. The company also encourages material vendors to submit data to the tool, recognizing that the more brands and vendors that use the Higg MSI, the greater the possibility of comparing materials in a consistent way across the industry and identifying alternative materials that ultimately reduce environmental impacts.

VF Corporation

VF Corporation pioneered the merger between the Higg MSI data, product lifecycle management (PLM) systems and its materials inventories. This allowed the company to calculate the footprint of its global materials portfolio—thousands of materials for 23 brands—in just a few days. This will serve as a guide to help VF reduce the average impact of its key materials by 35 percent by 2025. VF hopes this is the first step toward standardizing and comparing impacts across the industry. By rapidly calculating these impacts through this process, VF will be able to easily report Scope 3 emissions.

Mountain Equipment Co-op

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) defined what matters most for its brand and key stakeholders. Through a materiality assessment, MEC prioritized outcomes such as better chemistry, energy and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and water scarcity for its materials program. The company uses the life-cycle assessment (LCA) data in the Higg MSI as one of the data sources to compare raw material and processing options, understand where impacts are coming from, and learn where the biggest improvements can be made. The Higg MSI helps MEC prioritize environmentally preferred material (EPM) options and speak to the relevance using a shared industry reference point.

A&AT Limited

A&AT submitted actual spandex fiber manufacturing data to the Higg MSI to correct the existing spandex data used in an earlier version. Using the Screening LCA studies that A&AT commissioned on its branded LYCRA® fiber, A&AT submitted a new spandex fiber dataset to the Higg MSI for proper material scoring for comparison. The material ranking of spandex in the Higg MSI has helped A&AT validate its own internal work and focus on internal activities to reduce potential product impacts. The tool has provided the company with a focus for future efforts and resource spending: it sets goals for the reduction of emissions, energy, and water. With this insight, the Higg MSI has allowed the company to develop new product offerings like recycled polyester and bio-based spandex, the first spandex manufacturer to do so.

The North Face

As interest in sustainable apparel grows, so do claims that materials and goods are produced in sustainably responsible ways. It can be very difficult to know what really meets a trusted sustainability standard, and companies have trouble verifying such claims on their own—doing so can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The Higg MSI gives The North Face third-party and objective validation of those claims for free. The North Face asks material vendors whether they have submitted data to the Higg MSI to receive a material sustainability score. That gives material vendors, and thus The North Face, more credibility when it comes to sustainability.


The Higg MSI also helps The North Face's sustainability team communicate about environmental impacts. The brand's marketing team will not make any claims about a material's sustainability attributes unless it has been fully vetted by the sustainability team, often using the Higg MSI to help with the vetting process. Designers and Material Developers can easily see the environmental tradeoffs between different types of production processes to help them make sustainable design choices. To help foster this type of knowledge sharing, The North Face plans to integrate the Higg MSI with their PLM system.

Brooks Running

Brooks has created hundreds of custom materials in the Higg MSI. The brand also uses its Higg MSI material scores in the Higg Design & Development Module (Higg DDM) to calculate design scores for the largest volume footwear and apparel styles, taking advantage of just one of the ways Higg Index tools integrate with one another. Currently, the sustainability team completes the assessments and reports findings to the product team, who then uses the data to influence design decisions.


Before the Higg MSI and Higg DDM existed, Brooks designers and developers often felt frustrated and overwhelmed by the complexity of sustainable design concepts. The company has found the Higg DDM engaging and the single score it delivers easy to digest. With these tools, it's easy for designers to understand the difference small changes can make (like switching materials). The Higg product tools also allow designers to see how scores change over time, encouraging them to improve design scores season over season. Such benchmarking is crucial for driving strategic decisions. The scores also organically drive some fun internal competition among the Brooks designers — they vie for better scores!

University of Delaware

Universities play a foundational and essential role in teaching fashion students about sustainability. Students entering fashion programs often have no knowledge of sustainability. The University of Delaware is using the visual and interactive Higg MSI and Higg DDM to train future employees of the apparel industry. The university embeds these tools directly into required curriculum for fashion students. When the students enter the work force, they not only have knowledge of these leading sustainability measurement tools, but they know how to use the tools and understand their value as part of a normal product creation process.


In one class, students use the Higg MSI and Higg DDM to design sustainable jeans. Small groups of students work together in applying the tools to their designs. They gain insights together and discuss materials, manufacturing, and sustainability trends. Through this exercise, students with no prior knowledge about sustainability can have in-depth conversations about what material, finishing, and construction choices they can use to design more sustainable jeans.

Toad&Co

In its fall 2016 debut season, brand and retailer Toad&Co. scored 25 styles using the Higg DDM. Now, the company plans to increase the number of styles assessed in the Higg DDM by 20 percent each year, until all styles are scored. Toad&Co. selected a range of styles from various categories, using different materials, and that were anticipated to have a high and low impact.

A team of two scores and communicates results to the development team. Toad&Co. used the Higg DDM to create a hierarchy that prioritizes which materials product designers and developers should use and which ones they should avoid. This prioritization saves designers a lot of time by showing them which areas to focus on to make the biggest impact. Toad&Co. plans to connect the Higg MSI and Higg DDM to their PLM system, so designers will automatically see live scores as they develop their bills of materials and tech packs. For Toad&Co. these tools provide education, knowledge, and quantitative feedback that is helpful to designers. This allows them to create a product with the right aesthetic and lowest environmental impact. Toad&Co. will continue to rate its materials and styles; the company plans to set future participation goals and use the Higg Index tools to score environmental performance targets.

Sympatex

As a supplier of sustainable functional textiles, Sympatex uses the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) to easily and quickly calculate, compare, and reduce the emissions of all materials based on scientific calculations.

The highest priority for Sympatex is to eliminate CO2 emissions as much as possible from its value chain. The company helps customers reduce effects on the environment to an unavoidable minimum. Because materials play the most significant role along the value chain in influencing environmental impacts, Sympatex product managers and developers are trained to use the Higg MSI as part of their work.

Currently the Higg MSI is the most precise, transparent and simplest tool calculating the emission data for textile applications. It can optimize impacts of new customized laminates like barriers, textiles, foams and plastics, for example.

Since 2017, Sympatex's CO2 emissions and water consumption data calculated from the Higg MSI have been transferred to a specially-developed TÜV-certified technology tool that further analyzes impacts of materials, emissions of additional processes, packaging, and logistics. Thanks to this technology integration, the environmental impact of each running meter of fabric produced by Sympatex can be measured in one click. Once these measurements are known, Sympatex customers can compensate for unavoidable CO2 emissions by supporting climate protection projects.

Kathmandu

Responsible innovation has been a part of New Zealand brand Kathmandu's DNA for many years, with sustainability being one of the company's core design principles. The outdoor brand has garnered numerous awards and recognition from the industry for its commitment to sustainable sourcing and materials selection. Soon after the outdoor company joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in 2017, Kathmandu's head of product set a key performance indicator requiring two designers—one apparel designer and one equipment designer—to use the Higg MSI and Higg DDM. They began by scoring and comparing two existing styles, a fleece pullover and a backpack. The designers sought to learn as much as they could about the materials used in the two products to calculate the most accurate Higg MSI score. They then added those materials into their bill of materials in the Higg DDM.

During this process, the designers had the opportunity to learn how materials are made, the different factors that influence a material's sustainability, and how trims and yields can influence a product's environmental impact. The company's designers and material developers began collaborating with one another to score materials and brainstorm how to improve materials' more technical components. This helped the developers think about sustainability early in the product development process, the opportune time to incorporate sustainable elements into a product's design.

Now, once a product is scored, Kathmandu's designers benchmark it against similar products made by their industry peers and create goals to improve scores the following season. Moving forward, the brand plans to incorporate this process for more products and ask additional designers to implement the Higg tools as well. The Higg MSI and Higg DDM serve as knowledge capture and sharing tools, which will make the assessment and scoring process easier in time. Once product information is entered in the tools, other designers in the organization can access it and apply it to their own work.

The Kathmandu team hopes to see some healthy competition among designers and developers trying to get the best Higg scores! The company's idea of nirvana would be designing and developing the best possible products and for consumers to benefit through transparency and product scoring.

Interested in providing your own use case? Let SAC know at product@apparelcoalition.org.

Recent and Upcoming Changes

Recent Changes:

Periodically the Higg MSI gets updated with new and improved data and technology 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 March 8th SAC conducted the most recent update. Here are the changes that took place:

New data:

  • Alpaca (new base material)
  • Recycled PET plastic
  • Cellulose from bamboo
  • Bio-based nylon
  • Recycled down
  • Semi-Mechanically Recycled PET
  • We aRe SpinDye® processes:
    • SpinDye® weaving of 75 denier fabric, water jet loom
    • Finishing SpinDye® shell PFC-free W/R + water based PU coating (solvent free)
  • Additional Preparation processes for knit and woven fabrics

Updated data (changes to already existing materials):

  • Cotton: new data was submitted to update scores for conventional cotton fiber, weaving, knitting, batch dyeing, continuous dyeing, and finishing. Cotton was a normalizing material, meaning that it is used to help determine scores for all materials. This update may have changed other material scores to change slightly.
  • Conventional down: this data was updated based on new data for recycled down.
  • Semi-chemically recycled PET: this item was previously listed as chemically recycled PET.
  • Batch dyeing has been selected as the new default dyeing process for all knit materials.

Technology Enhancements:

  • Use Cases: Interested to learn how companies are using this tool in the real world? Check out the Higg MSI Use Case section above to see how SAC members are getting value from the tool.
  • PLM Integration: An application programming interface (API) has been developed. This API transfers MSI data into company's internal systems, such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems. Check with your PLM vendor to see if they are adding the Higg MSI to their systems!

Upcoming Changes:

  • 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: Q2 2018).
  • Do you have data? If you have data you would like to add, please learn how at msicontributor.higg.org.

Need More 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: