19 May 2023
Leatherbiz writes that the Higg Index suite of tools, developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coaltion (SAC) to help companies in the leather, footwear and apparel value chain measure sustainability, is now to be hosted under a new company name, Worldly.
In an announcement on May 16, Worldly said that it had been set up as long ago as 2019. It described itself as a public-benefit technology company designed to be a platform for hosting the Higg Index. In the May 16 announcement, Worldly said it was “the exclusive licensee of the Higg Index”.
SAC’s website lists press releases for 2019, but does not include an announcement on the setting up of Worldly. What it does make clear is that, in 2019, SAC launched Higg Co as a spin-off and Jason Kibbey, who had been SAC chief executive since 2014, moved to become chief executive of Higg Co. Mr Kibbey is now listed as chief executive of Worldly.
What seems most likely, then, is that Worldly is simply a new name for Higg Co, although the May messages fail to spell that out.
On May 16, Jason Kibbey said: “A generational shift is under way in the sustainability of consumer goods, and businesses need better data on their environmental and social impacts to improve performance and compliance.” He went on to describe Worldly as “the planet’s most comprehensive impact intelligence platform”, and as “home of the Higg Index and more”.
The SAC website does not include the May 16 announcement; in fact, the website does not mention Worldly once. Amina Razvi, who took over the running of SAC from Jason Kibbey in 2019, first as executive director and, from 2022, as chief executive, published a blog post on May 16, devoted to ‘30 x 30’, the goal to put aside 30% of the world for nature by 2030. She mentioned the Higg Index, but even here did not name Worldly or attempt to explain the change in the set-up.
If SAC were intent on putting some distance between itself and the Higg, it would come as little surprise to companies in the leather sector.
In October 2020, the global leather industry united to call for the Higg Index to suspend the score it gives to leather when calculating the sustainability of materials and products, saying it was based on “out-of-date, unrepresentative, inaccurate and incomplete data”.
In 2022, SAC had to call a temporary halt on its use of the Higg Index following a demand from the Norwegian Consumer Authority that SAC member brand Norrøna end a practice of using information from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) to present T-shirts in its range that are made from organic cotton as more sustainable than garments made from standard cotton.
The secretary to the International Council of Tanners, Dr Kerry Senior, said that use of the Higg MSI had led leather and other natural fibres to suffer damage to their reputations in the eyes of brands and consumers. He added: “The damage can’t be undone but at least it is now evident that it [the MSI] is a fatally flawed metric.”