Where We’ll Be in May: SPLC’s 2016 Summit

Reeve is heading to Washington DC in May to attend and run a session at the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s 2016 Summit. The Summit runs from May 24th to 26th, but there are also pre-summit short courses that will happen on May 23rd.

What’s the 2016 Summit? Following up on the Council’s well-reviewed 2015 Summit, the 2016 Summit will bring together 300 leading sustainable purchasing experts and practitioners from a wide variety of sectors and regions for two days of best practice sharing, training, and relationship building. This year’s Summit features 100+ speakers, 45+ interactive workshops, and a Leadership Awards banquet.

What are some of the things we’re excited about at the 2016 Summit?

Our roundtable, “Wider Training for Improved Results: Engaging P-Card Holders in Sustainable Purchasing” at the Innovation Accelerator session: The Innovation Accelerator session takes place from 10:40 AM – 12:10 PM, on Thursday, May 26, and features thirty roundtable presentations and discussions about innovative projects and concepts that are ready to be launched, joined, expanded, replicated, or shared for thoughtful feedback! Reeve will be running a roundtable to share the benefits of eLearning as a tool for engaging employees across the organization in sustainable purchasing activities, how to roll out this training, and the initial results of a pilot project we have been conducting with the Green Learning Centre. The best possible results of sustainable purchasing initiatives come from employees across the organization who are engaged and informed – our roundtable will help participants learn how to make this happen in their own workplaces. (Learn more about the Innovation Accelerator’s purpose and format)

Pre-Summit Short Courses: Short Courses will give participants an opportunity to go in-depth on a number of topics: Fostering Sustainable Purchasing Behavior, Supply Chain & Climate, Spend Analysis for Sustainability Leadership, Evaluating the Credibility of Sustainable Product/Services Claims, and Building a Renewable Energy Purchasing Strategy. (Summit registration is not a requirement for participating in the short courses, which take place on Monday, May 23rd).

We think the Summit will be a valuable networking and educational experience for us, and we think you’d benefit from attending too! In the hope that we’ll see you there, we’d like to extend a discount code for your use: input the MCSP2016 discount code to get 10% off when registering as a non-member.

 

Not just another fluff piece

Winter is on the way and with it, racks and racks of high-end down filled jackets, slippers and blankets promising to keep you cozy all season long. Generally speaking these are high-priced items, but a recent article has left us wondering, what is the real cost of all this down?

A review of the video attached tells you everything you didn’t want to know about how down is usually sourced. None of it is surprising for anyone who is versed in large factory farming methods, but it’s sure to bring a chill to anyone cuddle up in their down duvet! Force feeding, plucked alive, terrible conditions all suffered by these harmless birds to keep us warm and cozy.

Enter Patagonia, an outdoor apparel company who has just launched its “Responsible Apparel” campaign along with its intention to offer Fair Trade Clothing. This week they announced the launch of Patagonia® Traceable Down. The company says that the birds are neither force feed for fois gras or plucked during their lifetime. In fact, Wendy Savage, social and environmental responsibility manager for Patagonia says “Patagonia’s traceability program is hands-on every step of the way. We begin our audit at the parent farm, where the eggs are laid, and follow it all the way to the garment factory, where the down is placed in our garments. We need to understand every single part of the supply chain – otherwise we can’t truly feel comfortable claiming the down as traceable.”

Down is lightweight and efficient insulation, with Patagonia creating and following these traceability standards; it is now sustainable and a lot more ethical. Considering it already has organic cotton and recycled polyester, they are leading the charge towards sustainable apparel and should be an inspiration to other companies to utilize the holistic model set forth by Patagonia.

Green Sports Alliance Summit

Sustainability at the 4th Green Sports Alliance Summit

I am excited to speak at the 4th Green Sports Alliance Summit http://summit.greensportsalliance.org/ on July 21-22 in Santa Clara, California. More than 600 industry stakeholders will be listening to 80+ industry leaders, discussing how companies can promote better environmental sustainability, engage in community outreach, and advance the green sports movement. Pivotal issues to be explored by a wide selection of dedicated individuals.

Throughout history, sports have proven an effective way to bring people together in camaraderie. Whether it’s the baseball field, the hockey rink, or the ski slope, the environment is an important participant in any sport. This gives the industry strong motivation to preserve natural spaces, not only for athletes but for the children of future generations eager to experience the games themselves.

As a strategic advisor for ethical and sustainable business practices, I am always enthusiastic about industries making the green choice. It’s not just great for the environment but makes smart business sense as well. Sustainable purchasing helps you become a leading sports organization by eliminating waste and creating more efficient use of resources. For example, by forming partnerships with sustainable food providers, you have steady access to an efficient quality food source and by avoiding sweat-shop labour, you are selling better products to your clients, ones produced with skill and care.

That so many dedicated sports professionals have come together for the Green Sports Alliance is incredibly heartening, hopefully a prophecy of things to come. I look forward to helping the Alliance transform the whole sports environment and look forward to seeing you at the summit.

Message from Earth: Organic Matters

This week we’re bringing you a re-post from our friends at Fairware, a distributor of ethical and sustainable promotional products. Reading some of the latest posts on the Product with Purpose blog, we were particularly taken with the following video by Fairware supplier Anvil Organics. Highlighting the sustainability merits of organic over conventional cotton, we thought it was a nice summary of the issue and of particular relevance to our readers considering sustainable programming for uniforms, corporate gifts and give-aways.

We were impressed by this digital short created by one of our suppliers, Anvil Knitwear. The short video released at Farm Aid 25 last October, highlights the impacts of pesticide use on the environment and farmers, encouraging consumers to support organic farming practices.

Anvil Knitwear has made a commitment to double organic cotton production in the US through an agreement with the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative. Along with Disney LLC, they’re hoping to encourage conventional cotton farmers to switch to organic methods by offering a premium for their yield.  Anvil will also purchase any of the cotton making the transition to organic at a price close to that offered for organic. Read more about Anvil’s project to plant the seeds of change HERE.

Fairware is proud to carry a full line of Anvil organic apparel. Browse our site or contact us for more information.

New Research Helping Define the “Sustainability Consumer”

This week we’re bringing you a re-post from our colleagues at Ecolabel Index, an online database that offers the largest global directory of ecolabels.

With raw data showing demand for greener products staying robust in spite of a major recession, researchers are working to question old assumptions about who sustainability consumers are and how they behave. Recently, we have learned about a number of innovative studies, including researching online auction behaviour, that are helping to get a more accurate read on this audience.

Perhaps the most comprehensive is a new primer by Dr. Remi Trudel of Boston U. and released by The Network for Business Sustainability that analysed 91 different studies to understand if consumers will pay more for sustainable products. Interestingly, the answer is yes, and the average premiums being paid are 10%. This is contrary to prevailing wisdom that consumers are not willing to pay a premium for environmental and social goods.

Regardless, a gap continues to exist between the number of consumers with good intentions and the number who actually make greener purchases. What is behind that gap? According to this work, the main issues are:

  1. Confusion about the product’s sustainability benefits,
  2. Confusing packaging,
  3. Trade-offs required to buy the product (like a price premium), and
  4. Competition between brands.

One of the recommendations for future research is to investigate when and how much companies should communicate their sustainability performance given the risk of being called greenwashers due to over-promoting and the abundance of information now available at people’s fingertips.

We agree more research is needed, and are interested in what benefits consumers value most and whether those benefits match up with the sustainability needs further up the value chain.

In the short term the sector can take action to more clearly communicate to sustainability consumers:

  1. List a product’s specific sustainability benefits (what makes it better?)
  2. State the amount that benefit costs (how much more am I paying for that? 5%? 15%?)

Two simple steps that could help grow a market.

GoodGuide.com for Sustainable Purchasing Programs

Good Guide

Our clients regularly ask us where they can find a list of green products or sustainable suppliers. While there is no silver-bullet-one-stop shopping list for ethical and sustainable options, there are an increasing number of online tools to help buyers evaluate the environmental and social attributes of products.

While these tools are user-friendly and convenient (often accessible from mobile devices) they’re only useful if they draw from credible data.

Recently at Reeve Consulting we’ve been investigating GoodGuide.com, an online database of information on the health, environmental and social impacts of over 100,000 consumer products.

While the GoodGuide is mainly targeted to consumer audiences, we see some value in this tool for corporate purchasers, and even more so for staff at large in organizations with a sustainable purchasing policy.

Where we see this tool could be particularly useful is for staff making smaller, un-tendered purchases. For example, an administrative employee buying office or cleaning supplies may find it useful to compare attributes of one product to another to determine which is greener or healthier.

What is the GoodGuide?
GoodGuide is an online platform that allows user’s to search specific products to find a rating based on health, environment and society measures attributed to the product or manufacturer. An overall rating for each product is provided, and user’s can drill down for specifics on health and sustainability features by clicking on a rating for more details.

Screen shot of Dawn ultra-concentrated dish soap on GoodGuide.com

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10. A score of 10 means the product rates very well relative to other products in a category or other companies in an industrial sector.

Similar to the EnerGuide label on appliances, GoodGuide doesn’t approve or certify products as meeting specific sustainability standards, it only provides information that can be used to compare one product to another.

Highlights of the GoodGuide
A major strength of the GoodGuide is that it’s easy to use. Primarily, directed at the consumer market, with a mission to help consumers make purchasing decisions that reflect their preferences and values, the tool has been set-up with a user-friendly interface and colour-coded rating system. There’s also a GoodGuide’s smart phone app, which allows one to access the full product database from the shopping aisle by simply scanning product barcodes.

Mobile barcode look-up; Flickr / Lauren C.

Another benefit purchasers will find with GoodGuide is that it covers many more products than those qualifying for ecolabels. At the same time, if a searched product does feature an ecolabel, this information is shared in GoodGuide’s product description.

Regarding the data behind the ratings, GoodGuide conducts regular stakeholder consultation and relies on third-party experts to develop and continuously improve their rating and metrics system. Their executive team and advisors are leading academics in product lifecycle analysis and other related fields, which brings some added credibility to the tool. Further, GoodGuide clearly outlines their data quality control procedures and acknowledge where there are gaps in data and value judgments.

B CorporationAs an organization, GoodGuide is certified as a “for Benefit” Corporation by BCorporation, a recognized body which provides third-party verification of GoodGuide’s sustainability and transparency performance. It requires that GoodGuide meet a comprehensive set of transparent social and environmental performance standards. As a result, GoodGuide has made their metrics and ratings system publicly available, which provides legitimacy to their rating system for products.

Areas for consideration
Recognizing that the GoodGuide is a relatively new tool, we’re impressed by the large number of products that have been rated to date and the level of information we’re able to access. As the GoodGuide continues to develop, there are a couple areas where we feel the tool could be strengthened.

From early use with the tool we found that the transparency of raw data behind the ratings could be improved. While it appears you can take an extra step to contact GoodGuide and request detailed data for a given product, we’d prefer that the data be easily accessible, in real-time, while using the tool online.

Another area where we feel there’s some room for improvement is in GoodGuide’s social ratings. Currently the tool appears to take corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance for companies and apply it at the product-level. For example, a company’s support of local community groups could be recorded as a social impact of a product produced by that company, even if the two aren’t directly related.

We believe this approach could be improved, and that presenting the social impact of a product requires a look at the social impacts of the given product’s supply chain. We encourage GoodGuide to develop social supply chain criteria (similar to the Fair Trade model) rather than apply general company CSR performance to individual products.

No replacement for ecolabels, but a useful tool
Overall, companies and organizations with a sustainable purchasing program will find GoodGuide useful for initial product research and informing less formal purchasing decisions.

While use of the GoodGuide can’t replace consideration of ecolabel certifications for mandatory product specifications, it may facilitate initial product research and help engage more staff by making daily sustainable purchasing decisions easier.

Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve had a chance to use the GoodGuide. If so, what has your experience been? Where did you find it useful? What do you feel could be improved?

Protecting our oceans with sustainable seafood production and consumption

Flickr / Dan Hershman

Industrial fishing practices are having serious detrimental effects on the world’s fish populations. Here in the Pacific Northwest, some top concerns include farmed salmon, the overfishing of tuna species and fishing practices like bottom trawling among others.

While there are a myriad of concerns related to seafood production, fish are a valuable global protein source that offers substantial health benefits.

So what is to be done?

As is common across much of our work, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed from both the production and consumption ends of the supply chain. Wild fish populations need to be sustainably harvested, farmed stocks sustainably raised and consumers need to shift their purchasing habits to support these practices.

Two of Reeve Consulting’s current projects have us examining sustainable seafood from both the production and consumption dimensions.

Influencing consumers with the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions
We’ve been learning more about the consumption end of things through a research project for the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions a group which, we were comforted to find out, believes seafood can be produced sustainably.

Flickr / twoblueday

A partnering of sixteen leading conservation organizations from the United States and Canada, the Conservation Alliance was formed to pursue a common vision for environmentally sustainable seafood. A main focus of the group is engaging businesses involved in fisheries and aquaculture to help realize the common vision, thereby combining the industry’s business knowledge and ability to innovate with the group’s conservation expertise.

The Conservation Alliance is interested in influencing consumer buying decisions and on their behalf, over the next few months, Reeve Consulting will be putting together case studies on some of North America’s top behaviour-change campaigns. We’ll be taking a closer look at tools, tactics and procedures that elicit action and successfully influence consumer demand.  The main goal of this project is to develop a strategy for creating an effective campaign that drives consumers to purchase more sustainable seafood in grocery stores and restaurants.

Sustainable Seafood Production in Ecuador
We’ve also been plugging into the production end of sustainable seafood through our colleague, Kevin McCarty, who is currently in Ecuador researching sustainable seafood production and certification. As part of this work he will be visiting two seafood farms to see sustainable practices in action.

Tropical Aquaculture Products Inc.

Both the farms Kevin will be visiting have been third-party certified. The first, Bio Centinela, a producer of farmed organic shrimp in Ecuador, holds a number of certifications, including Fair for Life fair trade status and the Soil Association Organic Standard. You can view some of the many photos and videos showing their operations here. Kevin will also be visiting the Ecuador operations of Tropical Aquaculture Products Inc. a producer of farmed Tilapia whose facilities are Best Aquaculture Practices Certified.

We’ll be using Kevin’s findings to enhance Reeve Consulting’s experience in sustainable seafood and better serve our clients in this field. We’re keen to learn more about his research and field experiences and will be sharing details here on our blog.

Sustainable Seafood Ecolabels: connecting production and consumption
Ecolabels serve an important purpose for both verifying and making clear to consumers products for which sustainable production practices were applied. There are a number of resources available to help people select sustainable seafood options – whether you’re at the grocery store, in a restaurant or responsible for a larger procurement program. We’ve listed a few helpful resources below.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – The MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability makes sure that the MSC label is only displayed on seafood from a MSC certified sustainable fishery. It means that consumers and seafood buyers can have confidence that the fish they are buying can be traced back to a fishery that meets the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

Fish Choice – Launced in 2009, fishchoice.com is an online portal for commercial seafood buyers that provides free, instant access to products and information necessary to source environmentally responsible seafood. Acting as a business-to-business matchmaking service, buyers can find seafood suppliers that catch, farm or process seafood products that meet the criteria or certifications of the partnering NGOs and distributors who have attained chain of custody certificates for MSC certified products.

SeaChoice – Canada’s most comprehensive sustainable seafood program formed by five of Canada’s most respected conservation organizations – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Center, Living Oceans Society and Sierra Club BC (many of which are also a part of the Conservation Alliance). To help you with your seafood choices, SeaChoice has created helpful resources including a quick reference seafood guide available as a PDF, drop card or iphone app. They also have a business guide targeted at corporate seafood buyers.

Ecolabel Index – Read more about the various seafood ecolabels by looking them up in the Ecolabel Index database, the largest global directory of ecolabels currently tracking 377 ecolabels in 211 countries. We’ve discussed this resource on the Reeve Consulting blog before and you can read more about it and navigating the field of ecolabels here.

Additional resources:
Suzuki’s Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks, David Suzuki Foundation

Carting Away the Oceans, GreenPeace – includes an overview of the role of supermarkets in seafood supply chains and a rating of North American super markets regard for marine environments

Lifting the lid on the major canned tuna brands in Canada, GreenPeace

Review: Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Treehugger.com

Smart Seafood Guide 2011, Food & Water Watch

Are there too many eco-labels and green ratings?

Flickr / Jeff Keen

This is a good question and one we hear often at Reeve Consulting. In a recent article on GreenBiz.com, Joshua Saunders of GoodGuide tackles this issue and presents some valuable insights.

With over 300 eco-labels in the global marketplace, and more being added each year, manufacturers, businesses and consumers are faced with increasingly complex decisions when it comes to green ratings.

To simplify ecolabel decisions, Saunders suggests an oligopoly of labeling organizations with larger barriers to entry is needed. Essentially a handful of credible certification programs, labels and rating systems to dominate the market. A distinction is made between this and a “one choice” market, with Saunders stressing the importance of competition between ecolabels to fuel transparency, rigor, credibility, service and price.

Greenbiz.com

In fact it seems we’re not far from an ecolabel market dominated by a few suppliers. As Saunders rightly describes, ecolabels are segmented by product category, industry and geography. When purchasing a product, one doesn’t actually choose from 300 ecolabels, but a smaller subset that applies to the product in question.

Saunders also explains that, while more ecolabels are being introduced each year, more consolidation is taking place among the labeling organizations.  An example of this is the recent acquisition of the Canadian certification program TerraChoice by UL. This is exciting news, and we’re interested to learn about the next steps for Terra Choice when we connect with our colleagues Scott McDougall and Angela Griffiths.

Saunders article ends by stating there’s little doubt that the sustainable labeling field is moving towards greater collaboration and consolidation.  That’s good news because ecolabels are becoming an increasingly important tool for corporate and consumer purchasing. Everyone will benefit from more credible labeling and rating systems.

Read Joshua Saunders full article HERE.

Who Sets the Standards for Ecolabels?

It is common practice to rely on third-party ecolabels to define environmental criteria for particular purchasing categories.  Ecolabels provide third-party verification of the environmental and social standards related to a particular product or service category and can be used to reduce the onus of creating environmental criteria.  By understanding how to identify a mature and credible ecolabel purchasers can rely on these pre-determined criteria and simply specify that the product or service in question carry this ecolabel, removing the burden of developing criteria.

There are over 350 ecolabels in the global marketplace so it important to understand how to identify mature and credible ecolabel standards, as all are not created equally.  There are three main international expert sources that provide definitions of different types of ecolabels and set out parameters for developing high quality ecolabels that consumers can trust.  The following provides an introduction to these organizations and briefly describes their efforts to set international parameters for ecolabelling.

International Parameters for Ecolabels: Key Organizations and Definitions

The following organizations have set international definitions and parameters for ecolabels:

  1. Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN)
  2. International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  3. ISEAL Alliance

Global Ecolabelling Network

GEN is a non-profit association of third-party environmental performance recognition, certification and labeling organizations founded in 1994 to improve, promote and develop the ecolabelling of products and services.  GEN defines different types of ecolabels, categorizes existing ecolabels, and sets generic environmental criteria for specific product and service categories.  As a membership based organization, GEN provides assurance that member organizations are meeting their parameters for ecolabelling.

For more detail visit: http://www.globalecolabelling.net/whatis.html

International Organization for Standardization

ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards.  It brings together a network of national standards institutes from 159 countries to build consensus of global standard setting.  In particular, they have created the ISO 14020 series of standards that define parameters for developing environmental labels and declarations.  This series includes ISO 14024, 14021 and 14025, which define the parameters for Type I, II, and III ecolabels, respectively.

For more detail visit: http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=34425

ISEAL Alliance

ISEAL is a global association for social and environmental standards.  It works with established and emerging voluntary standard systems to develop guidance and strengthen the effectiveness of these standards.  They also work with companies, non-profits and governments to support their referencing and use of voluntary standards.  They have developed Codes of Good Practice that are applied to leading standards systems and are an ISEAL membership requirement.  As a membership based organization, ISEAL provides assurance that member organizations are meeting their parameters for ecolabelling.

For more detail visit: http://www.isealalliance.org/content/codes-good-practice

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What’s in a label? ISEAL Alliance aims for a gold medal with standard setting code.

Who’s certifying the certifiers?

Credible standards that define sustainable products is critical to ongoing work in sustainable supply chains.  Here’s an interesting presentation from a group that’s trying to bring more consistency to the standard setting process.  ISEAL is an organisation that is comprised of groups like FSC, Marine Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance and more.

Reeve is keen to see more developments like these.

Check out this quick and informative presentation on ISEAL Alliances Standard-Setting Code: Introduction to the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code

View more presentations from ISEAL Alliance.