In Conversation with Jason Kibbey: Understanding how Products are Developed to Sustain Competitive Advantage is Key
Jason Kibbey is the CEO of Higg, a technology company that helps brands, retailers and manufacturers measure and improve their supply chain impact. Centric Software® and Higg recently joined forces to provide fashion product designers environmental impact data on material choices. We talked to Jason about modern strategies to meet environmental goals and benchmarks, and why it’s paramount for companies today to create, market and support green fashion that responds to climate-conscious consumer demands.
If we’re to reach a 1.5 degree pathway as part of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, businesses need to shift their thinking and innovate so that everything produced and consumed is created with the lowest environmental and most responsible social impact possible. Businesses must examine the impacts of their value chain. They no longer have the luxury of only choosing one or two select areas; they must focus on making holistic changes. This requires understanding the breadth of their impact.
Think big. It’s important to understand all areas of your value chain. Look at not just tier one operations, but also tier two and beyond. Dig in and understand facility performance and Scope 3 emissions; opportunities for improvement and areas that are successful and can be replicated.
Next, look at materials. Sustainability starts at the design phase. Designing with circular intent is key and a great way for companies to develop better products. Consider whether a material can be swapped out for a more sustainable option or if the product can be repurposed after it’s used. The role of designers has evolved, introducing exciting opportunities in the creative process, enabling them to innovate when taking into account the environmental and social impact of products.
At the beginning of the design process, designers have the opportunity to compare conventional materials with alternative options, helping create products that integrate sustainability from the onset. With the click of a button, users will be able to send materials from Centric PLM to Higg and obtain impact information on areas including carbon footprint and water utilization. When the bill of materials for a product is complete, designers will have access to holistic data that includes information on end-of-use and total impact. Consumers are demanding high-quality and environmentally-responsible products, and by starting with product design, businesses can deliver on these expectations.
With the click of a button, Centric Fashion PLM users obtain material information and product scoring. Scores can be created from the most generic material to very complicated blends that may use five or six different materials, trims and finishes as the fabric comes together. Having such a large dataset can help everyone from product designers and developers to sourcing managers make better decisions.
It’s important to pay attention to upcoming regulations but also requirements and expectations from all stakeholders. I’d also suggest partnering with a vendor that has a governance overlay to help mitigate risk. Here are some trends that we’re starting to see:
- The first is around due diligence. Companies have to understand the impact of their value chains in order to manage and mitigate risk. This includes the social impact of operations and material decisions.
- We’re seeing the emergence of environmental footprinting legislation coming out of Europe, which quantifies resources and emissions. Carbon impacts, water use and other critical environmental footprint attributes are appearing on products. This is likely to become regulated on products sold in the EU.
- Finally, we’re seeing legislation called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which originates from European waste legislation. Repairability, circularity, mandatory take back and knowledge about potentially harmful chemicals found in products are common types of EPR.
Higg offers an integrated digital platform to enable brands, retailers and manufacturers to accelerate environmental and social progress by providing accurate measurement and full visibility into a product’s impact. Using the Higg Index methodologies developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, customers can accurately measure the environmental and social impact of a given product to radically transform how consumer goods industries impact the planet. Higg provides a single source of truth for product and supply chain ESG data from raw materials extraction to end of use of a product.
For designers, product developers and analysts, the materials tool provides a dataset of materials impacts, which helps clarify the costs, benefits and tradeoffs of different materials (for instance, comparing a recycled fiber to its conventional counterpart). Additionally, the product tool estimates the total environmental impact of single product – from materials all the way to product end-of-life, including packaging, logistics, product durability and care.