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28 Juli 2021

What is an eco-friendly sourcing?

Why choosing an eco-responsible sourcing and what are the options?
Protecting the environment is everyone’s top priority today: citizen consumers of course, but also and above all supplying companies.
The concerns of the latter must be studied holistically: favor eco-responsible production of products offered for sale on the market and anticipate their end of life in a logic of circular economy.

Eco-friendly materials, an upstream and downstream reflection

In this logic, the choice of the material used is essential and is part of two considerations: upstream as to its origin and downstream as to its future.

Upstream, the manufacturer will base his choice on several criteria:
– Is the material used recycled or virgin? For plastic or paper, for example, it can be PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled), this means that it comes from the recycling of products after one (or more) previous use. This choice is part of a circular economy approach since it favors reuse rather than the production of materials, whether for example polymers or pulp.
– Does the material come from a sector offering guarantees regarding respect for the environment? In the case of paper, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification ensures that the management of the forests from which the wood is derived is „ecologically appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable„.
– Is it a renewable material? For instance, raw materials of fossil origin are not.

Downstream, the industrial company must anticipate and ensure that its product will be, or reused, or recycled, or composted, or, if none of the three is possible, destroyed without negative impact on the environment.
Reuse is the best way. This is the one initiated by the 2015 law on energy transition for green growth, known as the Royal Law, which in particular prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags at supermarkets checkouts.
Considering the end of life of your product is now essential. Its composition must allow recycling or, at worst, if it is not possible, non-polluting treatment.
Compostability, which may seem the best solution, unfortunately quickly comes up against the limit of treatment capacity, whether industrial for a reason of lack of infrastructures or domestic for a reason of volume.

Ethical and eco-friendly manufacturing

If the consumer attaches great importance to the impact of the product on the environment, he is also very attentive to the conditions under which his product has been manufactured. When the product is sourced abroad, there are ways to ensure that certain ethical values are respected.
The BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) certification is one of them. Its approach aims to „improve the social conditions of workers among manufacturers of consumer products based in emerging countries„.
Calling on a partner located in the country of production is a great advantage. This one has the possibility of carrying out personalized audits in production factories or even of participating in local economic development by promoting small workshops which, for example, employ ethnic minorities.

The place of production: a trade-off between production cost and proximity

Once the product is designed, thinking about the place of production is the last step and not the least.
What is the place of production closest to the place of delivery? Which one will have the least impact on the environment?
Unfortunately, the competitivity of markets being what it is, very often the constraint of the cost of production annihilates the best intentions and production in a country with low labor costs is still very often favored.
The upcoming obligations regarding the carbon footprint which will bring about the taking into account of the impact of transport will undoubtedly reshuffle the cards in a few years in favor of more local production.

And you, what eco-responsible sourcing solutions do you promote?

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