The Natural Fibers Alliance (NFA) issued a statement calling for suspending the use of the HIGG Index, considering the recent New York Times article “How Fashion Giants Recast Plastic as Good for the Plant.

The HIGG Index, founded in 2012, was created to help brands, retailers and manufacturers assess the sustainability of materials for use in footwear, clothing and other consumer products. 

Since then, many companies working in the natural fibers industry and fashion activists have expressed concerns over the Index’s questionable support of harmful synthetic materials made from fossil fuels that run counter to long-term environmental sustainability goals, according to NFA’s statement.

“It’s simple, natural biodegradable fibers including leather, wool, fur, silk, etc., are more sustainable and better for our planet than plastic clothing. The culture of fast fashion is as much consumer-driven as it is a direct result of corporate greenwashing. The only way to lower environmental costs and impact is to buy clothing that lasts, repurpose older pieces and support a culture of slow fashion based on high-quality, long-lasting materials,” said Mike Brown, head of sustainability and public affairs for the NFA.

According to the Changing Markets Foundation (CMF), ‘Fossil Fashion: The Hidden Reliance on Fossil Fuels,’ synthetic materials from crude oil and gas has doubled in clothing, creating both reliance on the material and an increase in the cheap, fast fashion industry. NFA said this boom “has had a direct environmental impact that will lead to an eventual ecological disaster.” The CMF estimates the use of synthetic fibers will increase from 69 percent to 73 percent within the next ten years.

“The NFA feels that legislation and effective regulation are the only clear path forward. Sustainable natural fiber-derived products should be the norm, not the exception, and the only way to achieve that is to level the playing field, placing responsibility on companies through their compliance with regulation, allowing customers to make informed choices rather than having that decision manipulated by data or overreaching animal rights activists,” said the NFA.