The index rates polyester as one of the world’s most sustainable fabrics, for example, using data on European polyester production provided by a plastics-industry group, although most of the world’s polyester is made in Asia, usually using a dirtier energy grid and under less stringent environmental rules. The Higg rating for elastane, also known as Lycra or spandex, draws on a study by what was at the time the world’s largest elastane producer, Invista, a subsidiary of the conglomerate Koch Industries. (Invista sold its Lycra business in 2019.)
The Higg Index itself was born a decade or so ago amid a rising emphasis among consumers on sustainability, environmental and animal-welfare concerns. It coincided with advances in synthetic-based fabrics that were not only inexpensive but had new features that buyers craved, such as improved elasticity or improvements in the ability to wick away perspiration.
Many of the garment brands that sit