What is Indexing?
When talking about sustainability, you'll hear a lot about indexing. What exactly does this mean? Indexes are tools that provide a way for companies to benchmark and measure their environmental footprint, identify areas for improvement, and make informed sourcing and product lifecycle decisions. They address sustainability at the product level and help you examine processes throughout your supply chain.
If you would like to participate in the Index development or have any questions about this work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group is currently collaborating with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to develop sustainability indexes for apparel, footwear and equipment. These tools will provide a way for companies to benchmark and measure their environmental footprint, identify areas for improvement, and make informed sourcing and product life cycle decisions.
First the OIA Eco Index…
In 2007, the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group began developing a ground-breaking environmental assessment tool designed to provide companies throughout the supply chain with a way to benchmark and measure their environmental footprint, identify areas for improvement and make informed sourcing and product life cycle decisions.
Originally called the OIA Eco Index, this tool provided a standardized framework and language to assess product-level sustainability.
The original OIA Eco Index Guiding Principles
- Collaboration. The Eco Index is the result of thousands of hours of work by more than 100 companies in the outdoor industry.
- Open-Source Information. The Eco Index was developed as open-source to be available for use by all companies, reflecting the outdoor industry’s belief that true transparency is essential to “move the needle” on sustainability.
- Transparency. It is critical that all outdoor industry stakeholders are able to view, understand and provide input into the ongoing development of the Eco Index.
- Scalability. While the Eco Index is rooted in the outdoor industry, it has the ability to be applied within other industries and sectors.
- Global Reach. Outdoor Industry Association partnered with the European Outdoor Group on the Eco Index initiative to ensure a common worldwide sustainability tool for the outdoor industry.
…which evolved into the Higg Index
In 2011, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) — a broad coalition of brands (including Target, Nike and H&M) representing 30 percent of the global apparel and footwear supply chain — announced that it would adopt the OIA Eco Index in conjunction with Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index to create indexes for apparel and footwear.
OIA members collaborated with the SAC to develop the second version of the OIA Eco Index — called the “Higg Index.” This tool uses the OIA Eco Index framework and original content as its foundation, while also incorporating Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index data — providing the functionality for product designers and developers to begin making data-driven materials sourcing choices to reduce environmental impact.
The other major structural change from the original OIA Eco Index content to the Higg Index is its segmentation into three distinct content modules: facilities indicators, product indicators and brand-level indicators. This layout will prevent repetition and streamline the process of using the Index. For example, each brand needs to complete the brand-level questions once; the answers will carry through to all of the products being assessed.
In July 2012, the Higg Index launched. Companies can now use this tool to get a clear view of where to make improvements in their supply chains to reduce the environmental impacts of their products. For now, it is an internal-facing tool that is intended to help companies assess the sustainability of their products. OIA and the SAC recognize the value of making Index scores consumer-facing, but the tool is too complex to make this possible at this time. It remains a long-term goal.
While the OIA SWG continues to work with SAC to further develop the apparel index, we have now shifted our focus to developing similar indexes for footwear and equipment products.
Click here to access the Higg Index.
A Footwear Index is in development. An Equipment Index Pilot launches May 16, 2013.