More Than Safety: Substantiating Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) with Higg FEM and FLSM

This is Part 3 of an 8-part series on OrthoLite’s EHS program: a premier initiative in the footwear industry for safety, empowerment, and social responsibility. See end of this article for links to more posts.

We’re extremely proud of our team leaders and how they foster safer and healthier workplaces for our employees. At OrthoLite, we can back up that pride with data because every effort in our Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) program is tracked and measured.

Even with fastidious tracking, there are inherent challenges to understanding the impact of any organization’s EHS efforts. First, there is not a universally accepted standard tool to gauge social responsibility in global manufacturing. Second, it follows that an organization’s unique results may be without perspective or context.

OrthoLite addresses those challenges by reporting to the Higg Index (Higg). In selecting Higg as our framework, we’re able to:

  • Track and measure with consistency for year to year and continuous improvement
  • Gauge our performance against existing and developing global standards,
  • Contribute to a growing pool of data and insights that further those standards and benefit all participating organizations

OrthoLite VietnamSolar panels atop the OrthoLite Vietnam Factory

We believe Higg is the most sophisticated framework available for apparel and footwear manufacturers. OrthoLite reports to two modules: the Facility Environmental Module (FEM) and the Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM).

By participating with Higg reporting modules, we join over 21,000 organizations working to develop standardized tools that can provide immediate and objective transparency to our partners and our stakeholders. (Read more on why we participate with Higg.)

OrthoLite EHS and the Higg Facility Environmental Module 

Workplace safety is the absolute, non-negotiable center of our EHS program, and environmental health is inextricable from workplace safety. Internal working conditions, the ecological health of local communities, and lowering our environmental impacts on the planet are all fundamental to our team members’ wellbeing.


To measure and report our environmental performance, we track via the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM). The FEM assesses:

  • Environmental management systems
  • Energy/greenhouse gas emissions
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Wastewater Management
  • Air emissions
  • Chemical Management

As of 2023, all of our factories are tracking and reporting to the FEM. Here are the most recent scores, verified by outside parties.

  • Vietnam: 98% (reporting since 2018)
  • China: 95% (reporting since 2018)
  • Indonesia: 75% (reporting since 2019)
  • India: 62% (benchmark score as the facility began reporting 2022)
  • Spain and our OrthoLite Cirl factory began reporting in 2023, and will have scores available in 2024

Kudos to all of our factories for their exceptional results, with a special congratulations to Vietnam for the 98%, best-in-class score.

For a full breakdown of scores by category and factory, please contact Awaan Aadil.


OrthoLite EHS and the Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM)

Quoting the Higg Index, “The Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM) measures the social impact of manufacturing across areas such as wages, working hours, health and safety, and employee treatment.” It evaluates labor conditions for our teams through the framework of:

  • Recruitment and Hiring
  • Working Hours
  • Wages and Benefits
  • Worker Treatment
  • Worker Involvement
  • Health and Safety
  • Termination
  • Management Systems
  • Above and beyond

We began tracking and reporting to FSLM in 2023 at three of our factories: China, Indonesia and India. Spain will report in 2024.

Vietnam, as a country, does not recognize FSLM, so we’re using a comparable framework, called BetterWork, for our Vietnam facility. We then convert our audited (i.e. verified) results into the FSLM framework. FSLM self-reported scores are reported on a 12-month cycle, with the Higg suggested (not mandatory) due date of June 30. Those scores are then verified by an outside party.

Scoring is complex, as there are three levels of accomplishment, or “Step Scores,” with each step (i.e. higher levels of participation) weighted differently. Within those steps, each question is also weighted differently, based on the potential impact, risk, and governmental compliance considerations.

Example: A manufacturer could earn 100% scores in every category of Step One. Since Step One is weighted at 45% of the overall FSLM potential, the final score for that year would be 100% of 45%, equaling 45%.


OrthoLite’s Verified FSLM Scores for 12-month period:

OrthoLite has begun with the First Step reporting (max score of 45%) for the following factories:

  • Indonesia: 41%
  • India: 43.6%
  • Vietnam (converted from BetterWork): 42.9%

Our China facility has achieved Second Step reporting (max score of 80%) and is now tracking into the Third Step (max score of 100%).

  • China: 80.2%

While the FSLM is an excellent tool, we know that measuring labor conditions and social responsibility is an imperfect science. In scoring the FSLM, for example, points are only added for positive efforts. They are not deducted for a lack of effort or ineffective efforts. To address that potential gap, we complement FSLM reporting with comprehensive, internal EHS reporting of leading and lagging safety indicators.

For more information and results, please contact Awaan Aadil.


As with any other global measurement and reporting system, the Higg suite of tools is neither perfect, nor perfectly suited for every type of manufacturing. Even so, we believe it is the most relevant and promising option available for gauging our environmental and social performances.

All the data gathered from Higg-reporting organizations is used to continuously set new standards and push the performance bar ever higher. And OrthoLite plans to stay on the leading edge of that evolution.

Let’s step into a better future!

Additional Resources:


Comfort & Performance


We’re fueled by innovation, a deep understanding of our brand partners’ needs, true collaboration, and a dedication to limiting our impact on the planet—and it shows in every product we make. That’s how we became the global leader, and why we’re proud to partner with the best brands on earth.