Published on February 5, 2020 by Ryan Lynch
In the past twelve months, we have seen a rising and more global focus on how to improve sustainability in the supply chain. As we start a new year and a new decade, an increased emphasis and pace is emerging. This extends across the whole supply chain, which is where the more significant impact lies, being four times that of an organization’s direct operational emissions.
This change in approach is crucial if we are to lessen the environmental impact and achieve our ambitions to deliver the central aim of the Paris Climate Change Agreement - to limit the rise of global average temperatures to below two degrees Celsius. Even with such an essential driver for change, there is still work to do, and those that have already made the step and are leading the way are now beginning to reap dividends from a commercial perspective. Whilst some suppliers have already made headway with identifying climate change risks to their business and have begun to integrate mitigation/adaptation measures into their business strategy, global carbon emissions continued to rise by 1.7% to a record high of 33.1 billion tonnes in 2018.
One of the critical enablers for bridging the gap around greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within supply chains will be the role that standards and certification play. This is essential to ensure that best-practice is shared and that the market has confidence that organizations are continually improving and - crucially - working to agreed processes. Social and environmental standards enable businesses to continually improve and highlight information about production methodologies - how a product is manufactured (in terms of, for example, energy consumption) or how a specific material is sourced.
ISO 14090 Adaptation to climate change – Principles, requirements and guidelines is the first in a range of ISO standards that aims to help organizations assess climate change impacts and put plans in place for effective adaptation. The standard sets out how organizations can prioritize and develop effective, efficient, specific and deliverable adaptations, which will increase resilience and demonstrate robust and credible risk management, amidst the impact of climate change. Application of this standard can demonstrate to interested parties that an organization’s approach to climate change adaptation is credible.
In addition, the 2019 revision to ISO 14064-1 Greenhouse gases. Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements provides organizations with a complementary set of tools to quantify, monitor, report and verify greenhouse gas emissions. This is a good example of the role that standards and certification can play when helping organizations reduce emissions embedded in supply chains. This revision requires organizations to report on emissions throughout their supply chain, replacing the earlier standard’s requirement to report only on direct emissions produced by the organization. Such an approach is essential if we are to see the change in the market that is required, creating demand that producers must respond to, and establishing a “new normal” in the market.
To make such a change happen, we don't just need the tools, but we also need market leaders to show the art of the possible, as many organizations struggle to get accurate data on their supply chain emissions, and being able to rely on the data that is available is a further challenge. External verification will help to ensure the accuracy of data from suppliers and provides a clearer picture of the organizations’ total emissions.
At BSI, we’ve seen an increase in the number of organizations around the world that are interested in sustainability standards. It is likely that organizations will start to stipulate in contracts that supply chain partners must provide independently verified data. The widened scope of ISO 14064-1 presents an opportunity for companies to get ahead of the issue and secure independent verification for their total carbon emissions, including supply chain activities. Increased scrutiny on corporate sustainability reporting means that companies who fail to address the issue of emissions in their supply chain may be storing up the reputational risk for the future.
Establishing a fuller and more credible sustainability strategy is not a simple process, but can quickly start to change the assumptions on which a business makes its decisions. The role of standards and certification in helping support companies make the right decisions has never been so important.