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Long-awaited supply chain emissions reporting guidelines are published

Posting in Sustainability

The pressure on businesses to dig deeper into their environmental impact is on; new standards from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol mean the time for procrastination is past.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol has finally published guidelines that will give businesses deeper insight into the greenhouse gas emissions profile of their supply chain partners. In short, the time for corporate procrastination when it comes to assessing the environmental impact of business partners across the supply chain is past.

The guidelines were developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). They are focused on analyzing and reporting Scope 3 data, the emissions and environmental impact produced by a company's supply chain and "value chain" partners in the course of creating, delivering and managing its products and services.

Said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD:

"The new standards provide companies with a comprehensive view of the emissions produced when making a product and across the value chain. They will help companies make better business decisions and stimulate innovation of products and production methods. In today's world, it is necessary to understand and measure the costs for production, labor and transportation of products, which become visible and actionable through emissions."

The pressure on companies to get in better touch with their supply chains is abundantly clear in the ongoing public campaign by Greenpeace to get apparel makers to "detox" their production facilities. Huge international companies have an inherent responsibility to work smaller business partners to this end, according to the environmental activism organization.

There are two specific standards being published this week that should help businesses in that mission.

The Corporate Value Chain Standard specifically provides best practices for examining the holistic impact of a company's activities across the supply chain. The idea is to help businesses with limited resources prioritize their sustainability initiatives for the biggest impact.

The Product Life Cycle Standard allows companies to poke into the emissions profile of individual products, looking at materials, manufacturing, use and disposal.

Both sets of guidelines (which can be found on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol web site) were created with input from more than 2,300 participants across 55 countries; they were "road-tested" by 60 companies. Among early endorsements, if you will, for the standards:

  • The Consumer Goods Forum has recommended adoption of both standards by its members
  • The Sustainability Consortium plans to use the Product Life Cycle Standard as the basis of its analytics, and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative will also use the tool for creating guidance for the information technology industry

Even as it becomes clearer that the United States will continue to evade taking specific action to require reporting, pressure from stakeholders is growing. Now that these guidelines are here, companies will have no more excuses when it comes to collecting information about their supply chain partners and about specific products.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure