Leather Industry Calls for Higg Score Suspension

Leather leaders believe SAC’s Higg Index Score is not only flawed, but also damaging to the industry.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) released an updated version of the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) in August which leading leather organizations believe treats leather unfairly, stating that “inappropriate methodologies” and “out-of-date, unrepresentative, inaccurate and incomplete data” led to leather being given a disproportionately high Higg Index score. Additional leather industry concerns include: narrow geographical focus; misconceptions about the raw materials tanners use; and reluctance to take into account durability and longevity of leather in assessing its environmental impact.

The International Council of Tanners, the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies, the Leather and Hide Council of America, and leather’s representative body in the European Union, COTANCE, along with other leather representatives jointly participated in a letter campaign to suspend the Higg score.

“On the basis of the current Higg score, manufacturers are deselecting leather in favor of fossil fuel-derived, unsustainable synthetic products. We believe that the reputation and viability of leather and leather manufacturers are being unfairly damaged by an assessment that does not reflect the true nature of leather or, indeed, the alternatives,” wrote Dr. Kerry Senior, secretary of the International Council of Tanners, in the SAC letter, adding, “This has led to a negative perception of leather that does not reflect its sustainable, circular nature.” The entire letter is available here: https://bit.ly/2FnLZuH

At press time, SAC had not responded directly with leather representatives, but rather offered a response via an extensive blog post on its website that outlines how Higg scores are determined. The post is available here: https://apparelcoalition.org/sac-response-to-leather-industry-concerns/

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