A Merging of Standards and Sustainability

In “At the Intersection of Standards and Sustainability,” published in the March/April 2013 issue of Standardization News, editor in chief Maryann Gorman wrote, “… modern development — manufacturing, infrastructure projects, building construction and so on — takes place in a vast and interconnected world of systems. Global supply chains, regional regulatory schemes and the emergence of integrated systems like intelligent highways and buildings mean that most materials are produced within overlapping economic, social, regulatory, environmental and material requirements. And it is at this intersection that standards and sustainability meet.”

For the packaging community, standardization for measurement of sustainability performance started its journey in 2009 with the release of GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition®-produced “Sustainable Packaging Indicators and Metrics Framework©.” The Framework synthesized the vast body of measurement literature into a core set of indicators relevant to the packaging supply chain. Then in 2011, the Consumer Goods Forum picked up this work and condensed the effort into the Global Protocol for Packaging Sustainability (GPPS 2.0), which provides a common language for packaging sustainability related measurements. Presently, the set of environmental attributes and life cycle indicators within GPPS are poised to be released into a global GS1 standard that will provide a platform for submitting and the sharing environmental measurements between producers and retailers in a consistent and unified manner.

The GS1 GDS-GPP Packaging Sustainability Standard is in review and comments phase and is scheduled for release this summer. With the rollout of this additional layer into GS1 standard platform, a producer can release sustainability-related data via the GS1 global trade item number (GTIN) barcode system, thus allowing buyers to gain access to those data without the producer having to fulfill multiple requests from buyers from different retailers for the same information. Such central data sharing will allow ease of communication along the supply chain and with luck, facilitate overall transparency, benchmarking, and tracking progress for product categories.

One clarification: the GS1 standard only standardizes the reporting and sharing of sustainability indicators related to a package based on its assigned barcode. It does not standardize the methods by which the measurements are calculated. That is a different conversation. Stay tuned for the standard’s release date this summer.

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