You only have to make cursory internet search to discover quite how many sustainability groups there are out there most with very impressive member lists but are any of their aims actually achievable? Could these undefined goals be a true problem for sustainability?
Take for example the ’Sustainable Apparel Coalition’ members of which include the likes of Adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola, Gap and Walmart among others and their vision is to see ’An apparel and footwear industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.’
A noble vision and one that I applaud but can this ever possibly be achieved? The optimist in me would like to think that yes, of course it can, but the realist thinks that this is impossible. The very nature of trying to manufacture a product let alone trying to make it cheaper means that some unnecessary damage, environmental or human will almost certainly be made.
But this isn’t to say that these companies and groups should make no attempt to reach these targets, the work they have done so far has been impressive and should continue not only for their benefit but the consumers as well.
What they should do is accept that there will always be some collateral damage and use these experiences to learn from so they can improve further. Sometimes things have to go wrong for you to realise it.
Where they can improve, and where some have led the way is in turning vague ambitions into concrete, transparent actions. The biggest charge that often gets levelled at the discussion around sustainability is that it is all buzz and no tangible consequence.
Look at Puma, which announced it’d be releasing figures of its supply chain emissions and waste and demonstrating efforts to get those closer to the targets they set - this kind of activity has far more weight behind it than simply committing to an ideal.
If you’re not going to talk in specific aims, your ideals don’t count for much.
Tim Burt is premium content writer for Procurement Leaders. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.