Why transparency is crucial for sustainable change

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This year we’ve seen a lot of brands make bold sustainability promises. On April 21st fifty-two new signatories signed The Climate Pledge, including PepsiCo, Visa, and Heineken, to name a few. At least one fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies have now committed to meet net zero targets, however we are yet to see if these will be met. Companies have been warned to offset these targets with proper governance and transparency mechanisms to avoid greenwashing claims.

Iceland is a prime example of a company exercising this transparency, as MD Richard Walker has acknowledged that they may not achieve their target of eliminating plastic from own-label packaging by the end of 2023; a commitment made in 2018.

Walker comments that while they may not achieve this by the end of 2023, due to setbacks caused by the pandemic and the commercial viability, they remain focused on their target and will continue working towards it. This is still a win, as the supermarket chain has raised greater awareness around the impact of plastic waste and has encouraged other supermarkets to work faster towards this goal.

When it comes to transparency within the supply chain, regulators recognise that the largest environmental impact often lies in the supply of raw materials, or when the product is being used. Therefore, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can give a more accurate measure of the environmental implications of a product, as it takes into consideration the impact of a product on water, air, and land, from manufacture and use all the way to disposal.

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a further insight brands can offer; this involves committing to full disclosure of what is typically classed as confidential information about how a product is made. An EPD includes product ‘ingredients,’ manufacturing locations and raw materials, alongside a Life Cycle Assessment. This grants consumers greater control over their environmental impact, as they can compare different products on this basis.

Further to operating with transparency, brands need to be taking real action to meet their targets. When it comes to sustainable change it’s not enough to just ‘talk the talk.’ Over the past year we’ve seen a lot of supermarkets set lofty sustainability goals, however these goals are meaningless if they’re unrealistic and unachievable. Instead, brands should aim for real, scaled sustainability measures that will positively impact the environment.

While it’s great to see businesses implementing ambitious sustainability targets, it’s just as important for businesses to adjust those targets when necessary. We all have to adapt when it comes to a better way of doing things, and that means sometimes things change. Operating with transparency eliminates any potential greenwashing and offers realistic progress towards a more sustainable future. 

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