Winning friends on an ISO committee in Brazil

Shaun McCarthy
6 March 2014

As you might be aware I am in Brazil on the ISO committee for a new international standard for sustainable procurement.

I am the UK delegation leader, which sounds grand but there are only two of us. I don't get paid and Action Sustainability CIC, the social enterprise, pays my expenses.

The process started badly in Paris last September with the French sponsors AFNOR (the French standards organisation) proposing their standard as a committee draft. Thankfully, this was voted out and we have started again in Brazil with a new structure.

The group was persuaded by my argument to use the structure of BS 8903. This was eventually agreed with strong support from several nations. The titles will change but you will recognise the structure.

The fundamentals section will be influenced by ISO 26000, a broad social responsibility standard published after BS 8903. We should all get to know this standard better.

The enablers section is pure BS 8903 as a starting point with an extra section on communication.

The procurement process will be based on a framework suggested by the Dutch delegation. It is not dissimilar to BS 8903 and I like it. There was a strong opinion this section should not re-invent procurement, but describe how to integrate sustainability into existing processes. I agree with this and feel the French standard failed to do this.

The group now has three drafting committees and I have been elected to chair group two, formerly known as ‘enablers’. The next meeting will be in November to review the first working drafts from each group.

It is a long, exhausting and sometimes frustrating process to build such broad international consensus but I think it will be worth the effort in the longer term. Onwards and upwards!

☛ Shaun McCarthy is director at Action Sustainability

Shaun McCarthy is among the speakers on today’s free Supply Management webinar – Tips on how to make your supply chain sustainable at 1pm GMT. Click here to register.

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