CGF programme to benchmark sustainability standards

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/Fabio Berti
Picture: iStock/Fabio Berti
The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has created a programme to benchmark and recognise sustainability standards.

CGF said the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) would support development of socially and environmentally responsible supply chains.

SSCI will replicate the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) approach to recognising standards. 'Scheme owners' - third parties that perform audits to their own standard which is recognised by GFSI - will pay for their scheme to be GFSI recognised and benchmarked.

Benchmark third party auditing and certification schemes

The initiative will provide buyers and suppliers with guidance on which third party auditing and certification schemes cover key sustainability requirements and apply verification practices.

It can ensure confidence in sustainable sourcing, reduce audit duplication and complexity for all stakeholders.

CGF brings together 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries.

The initiative is co-sponsored by the CEOs of Marks & Spencer and Unilever and under the leadership of a steering committee, co-chaired by Ahold Delhaize and Nestlé.

SSCI will not create another social compliance standard and suppliers cannot be audited directly against the criteria.

One part of the puzzle

Sonja Schmid, manager of the SSCI, said it will leverage learnings from the GFSI development process.

“GFSI is a successful model for how clear guidance on robust food safety certifications makes sourcing processes more efficient at both buyer and supplier level. GFSI has been instrumental to help reduce audit duplication and drive continuous improvement in schemes,” ​she told us.

“Only the positive recognitions will be seen and there is no ranking. One thing to stress is that this is one part of the puzzle, there are many other approaches. We are looking at third party schemes and that is not taking away from the value of other approaches.

“We will implement benchmarks for different sectors step by step. Our first focus lies on manufacturing, across sectors. In parallel, we are currently consulting with our members and stakeholders to define the need for additional sector specific benchmarks.”

SSCI has signed a MoU with GSSI (Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative) to collaborate on a social compliance benchmark applicable for the seafood sector and avoid duplication.

Chris Tyas, global head of supply chain at Nestlé, said it will provide industry with tools to implement sustainability commitments.

“Through the SSCI, we will ensure that CGF recognised sustainability auditing and certification schemes cover key sustainability requirements and verify their implementation​,” he said.

“SSCI will support continuous improvement of these schemes worldwide in order to achieve our common goal of more sustainable supply chains.”

Planned progress and timeline

The initial focus is on social compliance before expanding to environmental compliance.

Social benchmark criteria are based on International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and recommendations, the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and best practice and include child labour, health and safety, working hours and discrimination, harassment and abuse. 

Following a public consultation in Q3 this year, open to all interested parties, the launch is planned for Q4 2018.

Development for the environmental benchmark is expected to begin early 2019.

Benchmark criteria will be revised on a regular basis which is yet to be defined.

Peter Freedman, managing director of the Consumer Goods Forum, said creation of the SSCI is an example of it providing practical implementation support.

“Today, any company wanting to assess the sustainability of their value chains faces a confusing array of different technical standards and auditing approaches. The SSCI is designed to help them navigate through this complexity and make sustainable sourcing more efficient,” ​he said

Mike Coupe, CEO of Sainsbury’s, said: “The harmonisation of global sustainability standards is extremely important to us as a business and so is sourcing our raw materials sustainably.

“We hope this will provide our buyers and suppliers with clear guidance on third party audits and certification and avoid duplication and complexity of sustainability standards in our value chains.”

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