How can apparel companies implement sustainability throughout their value chains

July 7, 2021

In this episode of Serai Spotlight, we talked with Jason Kibbey, the CEO of Higg, about the benefits for apparel companies to implement Higg’s tools to measure value chain sustainability. Why does the apparel industry need standardised measurement to direct future efforts? How can businesses leverage data visibility to make better decisions? An edited transcript follows.

Could you start with introducing yourself and why you decided to spin out into Higg from the SAC.

Jason Kibbey: My name is Jason Kibbey and I am the CEO of Higg. Companies use the Higg platform to really understand their impacts throughout their value chain. Everything from basic compliance to local laws to worker health and safety and worker well being. We have tools that look at the products and the materials that make those products to understand what are the footprints of those. How do we actually understand and make better decisions to make them more sustainable? 

What did you learn about sustainability after working in different apparel companies in the past?

Jason Kibbey: What I learned first and foremost when I was doing this myself about 12 years ago is that sustainability is hard and apparel, the apparel business is a tough business. And usually when you're trying to establish or grow a brand or help grow sales at an existing brand you're focused on making sure that your business is functioning and that you're making money and that you're not disappearing. We all know that this is a volatile industry where a lot of companies don't make it big and small. And so what I realised is that for sustainability to work and for sustainability to be implementable for any kind of company, it has to be made easier. And that's what we think you can do on the Higg platform to actually make that experience, easy, and allow you to understand not only how you improve your sustainability performance for impact. But how do you also actually make yourself a better business, give yourself a better bottom line.

What do you think are some benefits for manufacturers in Asia from adopting Higg’s tools?

Jason Kibbey: What we find is that sustainability is now really almost just a basic entry requirement for staying in the market, and any company that isn't engaging with sustainability might not have customers in one or two years The next thing is that by using these tools, you often can identify different ways of thinking about your operations that can save you money, energy efficiency, and water efficiency. And finally, what we're looking at in future, is we're trying to figure out how do we reward those manufacturers that are doing great work, how do we put them in front of customers so that they can actually benefit from that and so we're really excited with our partnership together because that helps our mission of trying to make full capital flow to more sustainable companies. So we're really looking forward to doing this with Serai and doing a little bit of this ourselves, how do we actually make your business stronger by becoming a more sustainable business.

What are some of the recent initiatives that Higg has introduced to kind of make these changes.

Jason Kibbey: One of the things that just happened that is really exciting is that we have introduced Higg sustainability profiles and this is something that goes right on a product page. H&M has implemented this. Amazon has implemented this and we've got a bunch more coming down the pipeline. And now that's the next frontier that we're working on taking these Higg scores and Higg data that many have been collecting for a long time and getting that information right on a product so that consumers can know the impacts of that product and know the impacts of the places that made it.

What are you most optimistic about for the future of the apparel industry?

Jason Kibbey: When I started in apparel sustainability, there were like a few dozen people working on it, it was just small, and now more and more companies are engaging with sustainability in a really meaningful way. And I also think that for the first time in many years on the environmental side, there's a common framework and a common language through the Higg index in which to measure and manage and direct your future efforts so I'm really excited about that. The only way to create impact is to work together. It's not just brands working with other brands but also other stakeholders that are making that value chain work that are connecting us and what platforms like Serai, we all have to collaborate to actually create the impact and just create the future that we want to see.

If you enjoyed this Serai Spotlight, be sure to follow us on social media for more content like this. If you would like to stay up to date with Higg and their initiatives, follow them on LinkedIn!