Why should we care about the veracity of sustainability claims in global supply chains? Sustainability, especially in the realms of production and consumption, influences our planet’s health, our choices as consumers, and the fate of many industries. The truth or falsity behind sustainability claims affects not just market dynamics but also the potential achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With half of the SDGs intertwined with how we manufacture, transport, and recycle, the imperative to verify and trust these claims has never been higher.

Recent challenges have seen a surging global awareness surrounding eco-friendly products. There’s a significant focus on creating recyclable items, using less energy, and reducing pollution. This isn’t just a trend limited to manufacturers; consumers are actively partaking in this movement. A striking 80% have expressed readiness to pay more for sustainably sourced goods. Yet, a disheartening report from the EU reveals that 60% of sustainability claims are unverified. Even more shocking, over 42% of these claims are either deceptive or entirely false. This widespread “greenwashing” poses a significant threat to genuine efforts to promote sustainability.

So, where does this leave us?

One path is to continue on our current trajectory. If we let unverified claims reign, consumers may become disillusioned and less inclined to pay premiums for sustainability. Authentic manufacturers might struggle to keep up in such a market, where genuine sustainability efforts aren’t as valued due to rampant misinformation.

But there’s hope. By fortifying the verifiability of sustainability claims, we can create a market where counterfeit sustainability cannot flourish. By ensuring transparency, consumers can trust these claims and willingly pay premiums. This, in turn, will further incentivise manufacturers to adopt sustainable practices, creating a positive feedback loop of genuine sustainable actions.

To achieve this, independent audits and assessments, as well as accrediting bodies, are crucial. By incorporating certification at every step of the supply chain, each component’s sustainability can be evaluated and authenticated. Imagine being able to trace the origins of a product, say a cotton t-shirt, right from the farm to the store. Such end-to-end traceability would not only assure the consumer of its sustainability but also hold manufacturers accountable.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen significant strides in this direction. Three pivotal projects stand out:

  1. Textile and Leather Sustainability: Comprehensive work has been undertaken to bolster the credibility of sustainability claims in these industries.
  2. Critical Raw Materials: Partnering with the World Economic Forum, efforts are underway to bring traceability to essential raw materials, with lithium as a prime example.
  3. Agrifood Sector: Collaborative projects with the UN aim to enhance the quality of sustainability evidence in this crucial sector.

As we move forward, the role of regulators is set to change dramatically. Gone are the days of solely market-driven sustainability claims. With initiatives like the European Digital Product Passport, manufacturers eyeing the European market will need to substantiate their sustainable production practices. This shift presents both an opportunity and a threat. While adherence promises access to a vast market, failure might lead to exclusion.

Helping exporters adhere to these standards can pave the way for a more sustainable market, fostering better environmental practices and improving welfare standards.

Interestingly, these three groundbreaking projects are open to all. Whether you’re an observer, an active contributor, or looking to be an early adopter, participation is encouraged. Especially for software developers in the traceability and transparency domains, collaborating can help define standards that ensure seamless interoperability with various software products in the market.

In essence, as the demand for sustainable products grows, the necessity for verifiable claims becomes paramount. Through combined efforts of regulators, manufacturers, and consumers, we can aspire to a market that values truth, sustainability, and the welfare of our planet.

Interested in diving deeper into the realm of supply chain transparency and verifiability? Looking for tailored solutions or ways to collaborate? Contact GoSource below and become a part of the solution.