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Sustainability trends and the impact on value chain collaboration

part 1


Sustainability trends and the impact on value chain collaboration

The focus of sustainability has moved beyond using renewable energy and publishing corporate policies. Companies who want to be part of tomorrow's responsible and sustainable economy, will need to provide full transparency about their products.
"Cut the fluff and send me an EPD", is what Ramon Arratia of Interface Flor used - on a life cycle assessment conference in Lille last November - to summarize Interface's transparency policy with their suppliers.
Ramon questioned the added value of many of the sustainability questionnaires that companies send around in their supply base. Interface flor focuses on the sustainability of the product and the value chain. You can find Ramon's presentation and contributions of other companies on the Avnir ( conference here ( Ramon's blog also carries the name cut the fluff (
The trend of sustainability's focus moving beyond organizations to products was also highligted in our research last year. One of the participants in that research was Interface's competitor Desso (, who also have radically chosen for a product approach of sustainability. Responsible and sustainable supply chain management is no longer a question of only managing the risk of the supply chain not respecting labor or human rights. That doesn't mean that these issues are not important or don't deserve attention where they ARE a risk. In our research, we have provided an overview of good practices and recommendations to manage risks in the supply chain.
For many companies however, the impact on environment and society lies much more in other parts of the value chain than in the manufacturing process. In order to manage that impact, companies require more and more that their suppliers reveal the environmental impact of their products. That could be through an EPD - Environmental Product Declaration - like Interface is asking for. But it could also be in a Cradle to Cradle approach like Desso (, or through a product Life Cycle Assessment ( LCA is pushed hard by the industry, for example by the sustainability consortium ( Not only industry, also authorities drive transparency of products. France is experimenting with labelling of environmental impact on products (you can also find a presentation about that experiment in the avnir LCA conference link). European and US authorities are promoting life cycle thinking, and Europe is preparing requirements about labeling of environmental performance on products.
The focus on transparency of products has increased the requirements on information exchange in the value chain. Methods like Questionnaires and one-directional information collection were already reaching their limits for managing risks on environment, labor & human rights; they prove inadequate to map - let alone manage - the impact of products. It was that need that lead us to develop our offering.
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