Data for better design

by C&A Foundation Working Conditions Team on Jan 25, 2017

Information is power when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of our industry, and a new and improved tool from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is helping product designers to make better, less impactful choices at the product development stage.


The SAC's revamped Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), developed with funding from C&A Foundation and other SAC members, was launched in New York on 3 November. It has gone from including environmental data on 40 generic materials, to around 40,000 distinct material combinations.


Sarah Ong, Programme Manager at C&A Foundation, says: “At C&A Foundation we have a vision of a transparent, environmentally responsible apparel industry that has a positive impact on people and communities.

The Higg MSI forms part of the Design and Development Module (DDM) in SAC's broader Higg Index.


The DDM measures a product's overall environmental impact at proto one stage - the point at which a product designer hands over to a product developer.


“Giving designers the information to make better material and production choices at the development stage is an important part of achieving C&A Foundation's vision.”

Programme Manager C&A Foundation Sarah Ong

Betsy Blaisdell, SAC's Vice President, Higg Index, says: “This is the sweet spot. If you want to influence the creation process it needs to be at that early design stage."


“The DDM looks at all the things a designer can influence; not just materials through the Higg MSI, but also production methods, product after-care, durability, suitability for recycling and so on. It lets designers benchmark their products against similar items developed by competitors - all anonymously of course."


SAC members include brands, retailers, manufacturers, NGOs and academics all committed to an apparel, footwear, and home textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.

“This is the sweet spot. If you want to influence the creation process it needs to be at that early design stage.”

Vice President Sustainable Apparel Coalition Betsy Blaisdell