SAC Halts Use Of Higg Index In Face Of Greenwashing Claims

In Article, News4 Minutes

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The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is an organisation that offers major fashion brands an assessment of their products’ environmental impact. It announced that it is pausing its consumer facing transparency programme globally, and undertaking a third party review of the Higg MSI data and methodology.

This follows a decision by the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) that Norrøna was breaking the law by marketing their outdoor wear as environmentally friendly based on Higg MSI data. The NCA simultaneously warned H&M that their potential use of the Higg MSI data in marketing towards consumers would be considered a breach of the Marketing Control Act.

The Higg MSI (Material Sustainability Index) is part of the Higg Index suite of tools that scores the environmental impacts of materials. As One 4 Leather has reported before, the index has been controversial among natural material producers, as it regularly scores plastic, petroleum-based materials as more sustainable than natural, renewable materials such as leather, silk, or wool. For example, it scores water impact of materials, but not microplastics potential.

According to The Guardian, Philippa Grogan of the fashion sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, the Higg MSI fails to present a full picture when offering lifecycle assessments: “If you think of a lifecycle assessment as a clock face, the Higg MSI is only looking at midday to 3pm – only a very selective part of the impact. To represent how sustainable a product is, we need the assessment to go from midnight to midnight – so not just from cradle to shop, but from cradle to grave.”

“If you think of a lifecycle assessment as a clock face, the Higg MSI is only looking at midday to 3pm – only a very selective part of the impact"

In October 2020 the global leather industry published an open letter to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, asking it to suspend the leather score on its Higg MSI, as it was based on inappropriate methodologies and inaccurate and incomplete data. This meant that the Higg MSI data gave leather a disproportionality high score.

While the Higg MSI data is primarily used by fashion industries, members of One 4 Leather have found that some auto manufacturers use it as part of their consideration of the impacts of materials.

All of this is happening against the backdrop of updates to the EU consumer rules to prevent greenwashing and empower consumers. The proposed updates introduce a ban on greenwashing as well as bans on planned obsolescence. They oblige traders to provide consumers with information on products’ durability and repairability. This is a powerful reminder to everyone of how sustainable genuine leather truly can be.

Links:

Sustainable Apparel Coalition Announcement dated June 27, 2022

Norwegian Consumer Authority decision Norrøna dated June 14 2022

Norwegian Consumer Authority H&M letter dated June 14 2022

One 4 Leather’s previous reporting on Higg Index

Leather Industry Unites in Call for Higg Index Score for Leather to be Suspended dated Oct 8, 2020

The Guardian article ‘Fashion brands pause use of sustainability index tool over greenwashing claims’

European Commission Press Release on new consumer rights and ban on greenwashing dated 30 March 2022

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    Holy Cow: Food For Thought

    In Article, News3 Minutes

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    As a by-product of the meat industry, leather is a highly sustainable material. Producing leather is a way of using a resource that would otherwise be thrown away and put into landfill. It then goes on to have a long useful life thanks to its durability and, ultimately, completes its cycle by biodegrading back into the earth. Sadly, however, the hide market has been subdued in recent years because of the use of rather less sustainable synthetics. According to Beef Central, “nearly 16 percent of all hides produced in the US last year went to landfill because there was no market for them”.

    Saving hides from landfill 

    It is very refreshing therefore to hear of another way of using hides and to reduce the wasteful practice of discarding them. A couple of entrepreneurs in Washington State, USA, have created ‘Holy Cow’ snacks which turn hides – or ‘beef skins’ as they prefer to call them – into tasty nibbles. One of the founders, Javon Bangs is quoted as saying: “Instead of discarding hides in landfills, we are upcycling them into a nutrient-dense snack. This reduces waste and pressure on the environment.”

    Sustainability challenges

    Available in four flavours, the snacks are inspired by Indonesian cuisine and designed to be an organic, ethical and healthier alternative to traditional processed snacks. In realising this objective, the company has faced many challenges that are familiar to those faced by the leather industry. Take animal welfare, for example. Just as leather producers want hides to be as unblemished as possible which means getting them from cattle that have been well cared for, Bangs insists on sourcing from “happy cows”. That means grass-fed beef cattle raised on farms that are not just sustainable but that practise regenerative farming methods. This too, is in line with the approach of more and more leather producers today.

    In addition to checking out the farms that cattle come from, New Food Magazine describes how Holy Cow pays attention to the entire supply chain to ensure that ‘food miles’ are kept to a minimum. In the same way, leather producers are finding more ways to document their supply chain and ensure traceability of hides to confirm that they come from farms with verifiably high welfare standards.

    It is very refreshing therefore to hear of another way of using hides and to reduce the wasteful practice of discarding them.

    Toward a circular economy

    It is early days but so far the company has “upcycled and prevented over two tonnes of waste from 500 hides from going to landfill”, according to Bangs. As the rush to synthetics subsides and the sustainability flaws of faux leather are increasingly revealed, hopefully many more hides will go to good use as people embrace leather – as well as beef rinds – more and more in the circular economy of the future.

    Read full article here

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      Time To Put The Record Straight: The Leather Industry Fights Back

      In Article, News1 Minutes

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      Leather UK recently issued a ‘Global Leather Industry Position Statement on Leather Alternatives’. Supported by various organisations including ICT (International Council of Tanners), ICSHLTA, IULTCS, COTANCE and Leather Naturally, it sets out the key reasons why the sustainability claims of leather alternatives are questionable. It also reiterates that, as a “durable, biodegradable, circular material”, leather is preferable to synthetic materials with – at best – unsubstantiated sustainability credentials.

      Key points from the statement include:

      • Leather is a long-lasting, biodegradable material made from a renewable residual product of another industry.
      • Emerging alternatives to leather are largely comprised of fossil fuel-based plastics.
      • The leather industry’s upcycling of a residual material from the food sector reduces greenhouse gas emissions while creating a valuable and versatile product.
      • Little or nothing is known about the performance and composition of the ‘new’ materials or the sustainability of their related production processes.
      • In a recent analysis by the German institute FILK, none of the alternative materials could match leather across all functional performance parameters tested.

      While welcoming diversity in the market, the co-signees of the statement object to the “appropriation of the image of leather” and the misleading criticism leather receives. It is a powerful statement and one that One 4 Leather heartily supports.

      Read the original article HERE

      (With acknowledgement to Leather UK)

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