Sustainability Improvements and Life Cycle Approaches in Industry Partnerships

Peter Saling

Abstract Prioritizing sustainability as a key strategic focus and managing it similar to other parts of business such as marketing and sales, leading companies have been able to better identify and manage risks as well as enhance brand value and corporate reputation. With industry partnerships a holistic approach is possible. Common metrics, shared value chain data and joint sustainability management form the basis of a successful cooperation. Decision-making processes can be supported efficiently and influence the whole product system, thereby facilitating clear, measurable value creation throughout the supply chain. Industry partnerships with implementation of innovative business models are a key enabler for companies to realize more sustainable solutions.

Keywords Eco-efficiency analysis • Econsense network • Life cycle assessment • Life cycle management • PlasticsEurope • Sustainable solution steering • Sustainability

Introduction

Awareness of sustainability in business decisions has an increasing importance for different stakeholders. To develop more sustainable solutions which meet society's needs is a key challenge in industries along the whole value chain.

There is a growing awareness in the financial market that a company geared towards sustainable development in order to outperform peers over the long-term while minimizing risks.

Industry and Associations Initiatives

Together for Sustainability (TfS)

Several initiatives of industries and associations have been founded with the goal, to implement sustainability principles in supply chains and to improve product applications. There are well defined networks exchanging general information but as well industrial collaboration networks exchanging and offering LCI information to calculate complete LCA studies.

A good example for initiating a general information platform to improve sustainability is a new initiative of the chemical industry, the “Together for Sustainability” platform, where chemical companies work together for improving sustainability in their supply chain. As multinational leading companies, chemical companies strive for a sustainable development and support the principles of the United Nations Global Compact and Responsible Care. The companies take responsibility for their own operations and in the sphere of their influence for our supply chains to support adherence to existing regulations and to respond to the needs and expectations of consumers and society. To use resources more efficiently and reduce the bureaucratic burden for suppliers, the participating companies share supplier sustainability assessment and audit data.

Within the TfS assessment as well as audit, the supplier's sustainability performance is verified against a pre-defined set of audit criteria. These topics have been defined by TfS and are tailored to the requirements of the chemical industry.

Benefits for the companies but as well for other players in the supply chain are seen in avoiding double audits and assessments, improvement and assurance of quality of assessment and audit results. Sharing of assessment and audit results with multiple customers on one platform, high quality through selected and qualified partners are additional benefits. Engaging with customers on sustainability requirements and challenges for building up long-term business relationships will be a positive outcome as well as lowering risks in relation to sustainability requirements. Knowing sustainability performance allows to improve performance (TfS 2012, 2015). This can be achieved additionally by calculating facts about products and their precursors with an LCA approach to generate detailed information.

One example for a cross sector initiative is the econsense network. The goal of this initiative is an open dialogue, the members of econsense strive to further advance the implementation of economic, social and ecological objectives, with the awareness that business with strengths in innovation and investment also assumes certain responsibility for the success of sustainable development. At the same time, companies can only discern their corporate social responsibility when supportive and reliable political framework conditions offer them a sound environment. The objectives of econsense are:

• To pool corporate activities on sustainability topics, such as climate protection and demographic change, and to jointly further develop these projects

• To actively shape the political and social discourse

• To credibly communicate the solution competence of the economy

• To strengthen the open dialogue between political and social groups

• To highlight the possibilities and limitations of corporate responsibility

• To promote sustainability concepts and CSR in the business community and raise awareness of policymakers for framework conditions that promote innovation and competitiveness (econsense 2014)

 
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