August 16, 2022

Higg Index, Bad News and the Potential of Blockchain Technology

The global apparel supply chain is one of the most complex industries. One t-shirt reportedly can travel thousands of miles before a customer purchases it. expertly demonstrated In this presentation of KQEDBut many of these international disruptions along the supply chain lead to an unsustainable, holistic and global industry. Everything from environmental inefficiencies to human labor abuse can affect the supply chain for that t-shirt.

this is where Higgs Index come into play

Created by Walmart- and Patagonia-sponsored. Sustainable Apparel Federation (SAC) In 2012, Higg (official name of the business) became an independent software company in 2019, collecting and quantifying data on textile manufacturing and supply chain from apparel companies willing to share. Collecting data in one place (Higg Index) with the intention of setting a global standard for efficient and effective textile production. A standard based on credible information that clearly states the use of resources. labor equality And the environmental impact is absolutely necessary in the unregulated and unpredictable garment industry.

But in recent months, the Higg Index has been under scrutiny. An unenthusiastic approach to the environmental impact of synthetic fiber production and those without obstacles distort information By brand, it’s the same was criticized for “Reducing the number of changes the fashion industry needs to make it sustainable”

The Higg Index is an example of a well-intentioned idea that struggles to land. His critics blame the index for not fixing the systematic changes that almost everyone agrees are necessary at every stage of the garment industry. And for better or worse, Higg remains the ultimate catalyst of this transition. Increased visibility of the global fashion supply chain that is unnecessarily wasteful is the first step. The only question is how to proceed?

The answer, as with everything else in the sustainability sector, is “it’s complicated.”

The most obvious response is to enable all stakeholders to see the environmental and social impacts at each stage of the supply chain. (as defined by Higgs) to all stakeholders This allows the market to reward those who meet the standards and punish those who don’t. Customers will stop buying products from companies with troubled supply chains. Subsidiaries will either change or die. and the fashion industry will be more sustainable

Everything from environmental inefficiencies to human labor abuse can affect the supply chain for that t-shirt.

At least that’s the theory of change. To demonstrate that an ideal future requires delving deeper into those supply chains and resurrecting the right data. This is a proven task that is easier said than done.

This is where blockchain comes into chat.

This ensures that a comfortable t-shirt will arrive on time and ready to go. More and more apparel companies are using blockchain technology. Best described as a decentralized ledger that provides product visibility at every point of its journey, the blockchain acts as a remote and secure record of all types of data. Know if there is a problem or other problem in the supply chain? The distributor can adjust accordingly. Minimize the impact of customers and the negative impact on the economy.

But if your supply chain consists of thousands of small designers, cutters, sewers, dyeers, decorators, and thousands of other businesses, the complexity can grow immensely. Although there is a solution

Walmart, for example, uses blockchain to track green and bell pepper supply chains. This includes thousands of smallholder farmers worldwide. Tejas Bhatt, Senior Director of Walmart’s Global Food Safety Innovation Team, explained to me the merits of the immutable nature of blockchain data: “Suppliers have They are more cautious about the accuracy of the information they put into the blockchain because it cannot be updated backwards.” Bhatt said Walmart aims to reduce human error by “Make sure the digital footprint is [Walmart] Seen on the blockchain, it actually matches the physical footprint of the product as it flows through the supply chain” using automation.

Walmart has created a solution for suppliers that lack the financial capital and human resources to integrate blockchain. Bhatt and his team work with each supplier at specific capabilities based on their operational capabilities. For example, smaller suppliers can use Excel spreadsheets as opposed to more expensive counterparts which are not necessary for the size of that supplier. Instead of trying to integrate complex processes with companies that can’t support this technology, Walmart is working to create a scalable digital dataset that can be easily uploaded into the chain without economic constraints.

And although this example is rooted in particular production, Bhatt is optimistic that “While Walmart’s particular model” might not translate into a fad, blockchain in general can certainly jump from one industry to another.

But Higgs isn’t the only company focused on a single product supply chain. Instead, Higg attempts to catalog all environmental and social data along every step of the fashion industry’s thousands of supply chains around the world. and then simplifying that data to a clear industry standard.

Blockchain can simplify this process.

And it’s a move the company is considering. James Schaffer, Higg’s chief strategy officer, told me:[Higg] There are many technological innovations in progress. some of which are related to this new digital traceability company,” although he did not go into any further details. He agreed with the critics’ claims for “Better supervision and quality assurance in every part of the data in and out of the system”

Such criticisms to the extent that Higg is legitimate and deserves careful and thoughtful action and response. No company will be able to use Higg’s data out of context without the devastating consequences of its source company. And the environmental impact of synthetic fibers (such as those used to make vegan leather) should be clearly considered and labeled as dependent on the petroleum industry. Page does not meet the ultimate goal of the sustainable global fashion industry.

Only Higg can determine how to proceed. SAC and Higg are now paused. Transparency projects facing global consumers To address the criticism and clearly redesign the process that needs to be updated, Schaffer commented during our conversation: “I think our [Higg’s employees and staff] the heart is in the right place But we’re working on some really hard stuff … and we just want to be honest back and forth so we can really improve.” We can all agree with Schaffer’s sentiments.

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