The US EPA and Procter and Gamble have announced that they’ve begun a “collaborative research and development study that could lead to new tools for measuring sustainability objectives. The effort will focus on metrics within corporations’ manufacturing facilities and their supply chains,” according to GreenBiz.com.
The global giant with more than fifty brands is already a world leader in sustainability. P&G already developed life cycle assessments and has environmental management tracking systems. The company would now like to link these two systems so that data can be integrated in such a way that helps managers make better operations and supply chain decisions.
According to Annie Weisbrod, a principal scientist at P&G, “We’re hoping this study will help us figure out how to link them and add more metrics to include the social, labor and cost economics metrics. We’ve made lots of operational improvements and we’re designing products with sustainable innovation in mind, but now we want to go to the next level.”
The EPA, in turn, wants to participate in this kind of study so as to encourage all companies to take a novel approach to sustainability. According to Douglas Young, chief of the EPA’s Clean Processes Branch in the agency’s Sustainable Technology Division, “the agency wants to encourage all companies to think about sustainability issues within their supply chains and other operational processes from a more scientific and systematic approach.”
This collaboration is going beyond the current system of scorecards that many companies, including P&G and Walmart, already use. These supplier scorecards are a system whereby the company collects data about other companies’ sustainability practices – they use this information to decide whether or not to include them in their supply chain. Although scorecards are a useful tool, they do fall short on many goals.
“Studies I’ve seen show some companies aren’t getting results they hoped for with these scorecards because they don’t tell you enough,” Young said. “We’re trying to bring to the table (with the P&G study) a systems way of thinking about these problems beyond just a scorecard. You need to look at a company’s entire supply chain and evaluate it as a single system to capture the effects of the things people aren’t considering. We want to shed some light on how to do that.”
Although no information on the specifics of the study has been released, the EPA will bring its expertise in sustainability metrics. Right now there are no other companies involved in this study but results will be publicly shared by both parties.