Collective Model for Life Cycle Management
An alternative LCM model with good success is based on a formal collaboration that binds the principal value chain stakeholders through a common, agreed code. The Code specifies objectives, governance, partner responsibilities and a monitoring and reporting mechanism. This model is especially suited for sector-wide LCM programs that address system issues, with useful examples found in forest, fisheries, food and chemicals stewardship. While similar in most aspects in addressing supply chain issues, many of these programs do not necessarily label themselves as LCM. A particular feature is that many of them are not even based on formal LCA as a precursor; they address directly well-understood concerns of sustainability or of safety. Several initiatives in the natural resource exploitation area have developed sophisticated LCM procedures based on agreed objectives. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) (https://ic.fsc.org/) and MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) (msc. org/) pioneered this approach using a formal code of operation and on-going monitoring and review. Company operations are independently verified and certified as code compliant, with public reporting on key performance indicators. Stakeholders have extensive opportunities to provide input via electronic means, in workshops and in governance meetings. The supply chain extends from producer through distributors to retailers and eventually down to the consumer who is able to exercise a choice based on sustainability criteria specified on the product label. 'Management' thus occurs at several decentralized points in this chain in line with an agreed collaborative charter. It remains that while the 'production' parts of the supply chain are well controlled, the downstream consumer end is weakly addressed, being reduced to a simple label on the product (fish, timber). Like much of LCM, there is no advice concerning the use of the product and how to deal with consumer waste at end of product life.
In addition to the above, a range of other initiatives can be found concerning consumer products aimed at fair trade, organic produce and the like. Many rely on a product label that identifies a particular environmental or social quality; however the management of the quality assurance behind the label is an unknown quantity. Third party certification is sometimes used, but much organic produce, for example, seems to have little rigorous LCM behind it (or LCA ahead of it).
In terms of life cycle reach the most complete LCM instrument and the most rigorous structure is without doubt the International Cyanide Management Code (cyanidecode.org) that aims to ensure safe and environmentally sound handling and use of this toxic chemical in the gold mining industry as shown below.
The International Cyanide Management Code was developed to help gold producers operate in ways that prevent risks to workers, the public and the environment at all points of the product's life. The Code requires signatory companies to apply strict rules, both technical and procedural, for handling cyanide along its life cycle. Signatory companies are regularly third-party audited and certified, with mandatory incident reporting. Reports are publicly available. An independent institute administers the code. A particular feature of the Code is its total value chain reach: even the upstream chemical manufacturers, suppliers and transporters must comply with the Code requirements before the end-user mining company can purchase the substance. The Code is sharply focused; it deliberately addresses only a limited number of sustainability objectives concerned with cyanide toxicity; it is not a 'do everything' code. Code membership brings operational benefits and public relations and financing advantages. A number of financing institutions and planning bodies now require code compliance before they deal with gold mining companies, while companies regularly mention the code in their public communications.
The code concept has also been used in related sectors, such as by diamond (the so-called Kimberley process (kimberleyprocess.com/) and jewelry suppliers (responsiblejewellery.com/) who have put in place a 'chain of custody' control of operations by their members. In each case, the entire supply chain is subject to the sustainability requirements of the end-user – pollution, risks, social conditions, etc. The selection of sustainability criteria varies among the different codes, usually incorporating a strong emphasis on social issues (e.g. Kimberley) as well as pollution-type factors (e.g. cyanide code). It may be criticized that these voluntary codes only bind their members. In the case of the cyanide code, over half of world gold production is now code compliant, an achievement that few other activity sectors can claim. In any case, a non-regulatory character is a feature of nearly all LCM exercises.
The usefulness of sector-wide agreements such as the above becomes clear when we consider LCM from a supplier perspective. Suppliers often have many different clients. It would be overly burdensome if each client were to impose its own sustainability or quality standard on the supplier who is then not only faced with additional administration but also a fragmentation of product quality requirements. Several initiatives of sector-wide LCM are know in, for example, the international textile trade, to coordinate diverse LCM requirements. These initiatives often focus on social and labor issues, less so on environmental agenda although examples of this are known also.
In some instances, government participation is necessary to ensure sufficient management buy-in. The UK's Defra, for example, sponsored an LCM initiative in the clothing sector to ensure better alignment with social and environmental expectations.
The initiative has voluntary participation from all major stakeholder groups implicated in the sustainable management of clothing, including at the supply end in Asia. The structure is less rigid than the codes of ICMI or FSC; however, it has the advantage of handling a broader range of sustainability issues (Fig. 14.1).
Another useful example comes from the electronics industry. The GeSI initiative (GeSI 2015) brings telecoms, appliance manufacturers and service companies together in an effort to improve traceability of materials used in manufacture of appliances (as well as actual improved environmental and social performance along
Fig. 14.1 The LCM initiative in the clothing sector (Source: Defra 2011)
the supply chain). Among other objectives it aims to improve environmental performance and resource efficiency and support sustainable supply chain practices. Of direct relevance to LCM is the conflict-free smelter initiative incorporating a labor code, certification, inspections and compliance listing. Further along the chain, manufacturers are encouraged to prefer purchasing from conflict-free smelters.
Table 14.1 Management instruments used in collaborative schemes
The GeSI initiative is noteworthy for three aspects: (i) it is sector-wide and engages a large number of companies, (ii) it spans most of the value chain from mining of resources to consumer use and end-of-life recycling, and (iii) it includes multiple sustainability criteria from labor/social to energy to waste. GeSI has partnered with non-industry stakeholders like business groups, international institutions and NGOs.
We can summarize some of the management instruments used at various times in these collaborative schemes as per Table 14.1.
Each of the above collaborative initiatives has its particular origins. Each has taken an independent path to arrive at similar end-point where the collaboration is subject to an agreed framework and action plan. There is, however, no standardization of this approach that gives guidance to future initiatives elsewhere and in other sectors. An attempt to provide such a framework through ISEAL attempted to federate individual initiatives and to facilitate experience sharing. So far ISEAL regroups over 20 members (Fig. 14.2) mostly ones concerned with ethical and social issues surrounding resource exploitation (ISEAL 2015).
While obviously compatible with conventional LCM ideas, some of the collaborative initiatives may operate under other names such as SSCM, SMM, material management and so on. The diversity of nomenclature is perhaps one of the consequences of a lack of clear, formal and universally accepted framework of LCM.