New sustainability standard is reason to celebrate

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Winston Churchill)

OK, it’s not the Second World War but the past four years spent developing a global standard for sustainable procurement has felt like a long hard slog. The good news is that ISO 20400, the first and only international standard for sustainable procurement practice, was launched on 20 April 2017. I led the UK delegation and was one of only nine people who attended every meeting in Paris, Foz do Iguacu (Brazil), Singapore, London, Sydney and Rio. It all sounds very glamorous, but being stuck in a hotel room with 40 plus people for a week, 10-12 hours per day, debating endless details is not much fun.

So I can feel a bit smug and enjoy a glass or two this evening to celebrate. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank my colleagues Cathy Berry from Action Sustainability and Colin McKerracher from BSI who supported me throughout.

Why the excitement?   

Firstly, the standard is incredibly well supported, with 38 participating countries and 14 observing countries together representing 65% of the world’s population, 85% of the world’s GDP and 73% of the world’s carbon emissions. It also has the support of many international organisations such as the United Nations, OECD, International Trade Union Convention and many more. It is truly a standard for all nations and cultures and ideal for multinational businesses.

Secondly, the time is right. Despite some political developments around the world, societal expectations are rising; climate change threatens our long-term existence, poor air quality threatens our health, the world is running out of resources, species are becoming extinct every day and there is an expectation that people in our supply chains are not held in slavery, are not corrupt or promoting conflict. The procurement profession needs to raise its game like never before and procurement professionals need help.

Celebratory events will take place around the world. The UK will celebrate in London on 10th May 2017. Come and join us by registering here.

☛ Shaun McCarthy is director of Action Sustainability

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