Published On: 17-May-2017
After four years of development, the first international standard for sustainable procurement has been launched by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).
The first standard of its kind in the world, ISO 20400 aims to help companies make better purchasing choices throughout their supply chains by establishing guidelines for companies to judge suppliers on ethical and sustainability issues.
Jacques Schramm, chair of ISO/PC 277, the committee which developed the standard, said it would help organisations avoid the financial, environmental and reputational risks associated with poor supply chain management.
"The risks of not understanding and managing practices throughout the whole supply chain are great," he said in a statement. "At best, poor quality products or ruptures of stock can result. At worst, disasters like the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013 can happen. Sustainable procurement helps to minimize risks such as these by encouraging buyers and suppliers to work closely together for a better result for all."
The chair of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), Bjorn-Erik Lonn, says his organisation, which has been involved, welcomes the further endorsement of “Type 1” ecolabels. He says “We see it as important that global guidance is given for what the true greening of purchase routines must be based upon. Type 1 ecolabels are the most reliable environmental information tools in the supply chain, and it is essential they are given the importance they deserve in this context.” Dr Shaila Divakarla, from Good Environmental Choice Australia, was GEN liaison for the standard, playing a key role in ensuring that the high visibility and importance of Type 1 Ecolabels established in the standard were maintained throughout the standard development/amendment process.
ISO 20400 aims to help companies make better purchasing choices throughout their supply chains by establishing guidelines for companies to judge suppliers on ethical and sustainability issues.
ISO 20400 boasts 38 participating countries and 14 observing nations, together representing 65 percent of the world's population, 85 percent of global GDP and 73 percent of carbon emissions.
As well as environmental considerations, it also takes account of social and economic sustainability when judging what sustainable purchasing looks like.
"It is no longer enough for businesses to rely on suppliers to provide them with what they want, no questions asked," Schramm said. "Organisations benefit greatly from getting to know their suppliers — understanding what their requirements are as well — to ensure their demands are not unrealistic and that the suppliers they work with have good, ethical practices."
Unlike many other ISO standards, ISO 20400 is a guidance standard rather than a certification standard. As such, companies cannot become ISO 20400 certified, and instead the aim is to build a global consensus around the key terms and expectations for responsible procurement.
ISO said it will complement the existing ISO 260000 standard on social responsibility.