What is Higg BRM?
2021 marks the first year that Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) members have been required to complete the Higg Brand & Retail Module (Higg BRM) – ‘a holistic, sustainability assessment tool that standardizes how brands and retailers measure and evaluate their environmental and social performance. With a combined annual revenue of $845 billion, members represent a significant portion of the apparel, footwear and textile sector, giving them the combined power to truly move the needle on social and environmental change.
Understanding and navigating the Higg Index Requirements
The Higg BRM serves as a tool to track, measure, and share sustainability progress. It assesses progress across 11 environmental and 16 social impact areas including animal welfare, energy/fuel use, chemical management, water use, child labor, health and safety, land rights and discrimination, among others. Generally, the process involves collecting data, completing the module, getting scared, submitting for 3rd party verification, publicizing your score (optional) and most importantly, working towards performance improvement, year over year.
Higg Index Benefits
The SAC and its members developed the Higg BRM to provide an integrated approach to measure environmental and social/labor performance across your organisation’s entire value chain operations (owned and operated as well as supply chain). For companies reporting to the Higg BRM it can offer insight into your business operations and supply chain by providing actionable data by serving as a gap assessment of sorts. Further, the standardization of reporting achieved through the Module allows your organization to easily benchmark environmental and social performance within the industry.
Higg BRM within the sustainability reporting landscape
The Higg BRM module is unique for its depth with over 250 questions, with multiple choice answers per question tailored to your organization’s profile. Reporting to the Higg BRM is intensive the first year though will get easier year over year as many answers won’t change and it will make reporting to other frameworks easier. Much of the data and responses for Higg BRM are transferrable to other reporting frameworks and vice versa. Anthesis is supporting the SAC with working on equivalencies to other reporting frameworks, such as CDP, to reduce redundant reporting across multiple platforms.
Anthesis supports clients Reporting to Higg BRM
This year we supported a number of Brand and Retail clients who were reporting to Higg BRM for the first time. We helped clients set up the infrastructure to make all reporting exercises easier. As many of our clients are global businesses with multiple sub-brands, or thousands of suppliers, the coordination and collection of data can sometimes pose the greatest challenge. We help clients build efficient communication lines across their organization, across department and regions, to ensure accurate data is collected on time. Once these paths become well-travelled and stakeholders in various regions take ownership over the process, future reporting becomes exponentially faster and smoother.
Support services for clients:
- Information data mining exercises
- Internal interviews for collecting responses
- Data and response validation
- Development of documentation systems such as an internal document maps to trace various data sources to improve process replication year over year.
Like most reporting projects, the earlier you start the more your organization has to gain from the process. Certain questions in the module are weighted more heavily. By starting earlier, ideally at least 10 weeks in advance of the deadline for submission, your organization has the opportunity to collect data for the first time, formalize policies, and even build programs as needed prior to verification.
The Higg BRM remains a requirement only for members but werecommend that other organizations within the Brand and Retail industry consider reporting to it to build a strong reporting foundation. The nature of Higg BRM requires working with stakeholders across the business from multiple teams. Due to the structure of the Higg BRM, the teams that support the reporting process walk away with action plans for their department. For example, by clustering logistics questions together, the team responsible for contributing to the section and managing logistics will have clear gaps to focus on for the following year. In a way, it promotes the decentralization and embedding of sustainability work within an organisation to drive action faster.
Frequently asked Questions
Question: Do you have any top tips for completing the BRM?
Answer: Yes! Here is a selection:
- When downloading the module to be completed offline, ensure all the sub questions are accessible by saying ‘yes’ to the questions. Also when downloading, note where the questions are liable to change year to year in a downloaded excel to see what needs updating.
- Add a column to your excel to capture the file name of relevant documents that substantiate the responses for each question.
- If multiple people need to complete the survey, only send them the relevant tabs/sections of the module. In addition, create a contact list (SME within the business) for each section of the BRM module as early as possible to ease in communication and data gathering.
- Over time, it helps to structure your general sustainability reporting so that key Higg data points are clearly addressed, making it easy to provide public proofs.
Question: Can you support on other Higg related activities e.g. Facility Environmental Module (FEM), Material Sustainability Index (MSI)?
Answer: Yes, we are well versed in both using all the Higg tools as well as applying the results to different use cases.
Question: Who can I reach out to answer my questions on Higg BRM verification?
Answer: You can of course reach out to the SAC directly and they have a whole set of support pages here. Anthesis can also answer your questions – you can email Honor Cowen Honor.Cowen@anthesisgroup.com or Elena Kocherovsky firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: Can we chose when to start the verification?
Answer: Brand and Retailers have until the end of the calendar year to get verified.
Question: Do you have to publicly share the score?
Answer: No, there is no obligation to publicly share the score though it is encouraged to do as, as well as share your module results with your supply chain partners through the platform itself.
Question: How will verification work for a company with multiple brands?
Answer: The BRM and therefore verification happens at the Brand level. When an organisation fills out its company’s profile within the Higg BRM tool it will indicate as such.
Question: Can the verification start only after the self-assessment is completed?
Question: Where can I find the list of approved Verifier Bodies?
Answer: You can find the list of BRM verifiers here.
Question: What is expected in terms of documentation for each question?
Answer: It varies. Some question require attached documentation, others don’t but all answers will need to be justified through the verification process.
Question: How long does it take?
Answer: We would recommend a minimum of 8 weeks to complete the module in order to find relevant documents, evidence and data to justify answers. Information will come from multiple parts of the business.