How is the built environment tracking towards more sustainable supply chains?
The head of Supply Chain Sustainability School, Hayley Jarick, who took on the role after Robin Mellon left earlier this year, is optimistic that industry is stepping up on the key issues.
The not-for-profit offers free online sustainability training for the entire supply chain, with a focus on the built environment. It works across the triple bottom line of sustainability and is supported by around 30 partners that pay fees so that the rest of the industry can access these resources free-of-charge.
Circular economy and modern slavery are the issues attracting the most enquires, Jarick told The Fifth Estate. She says that modern slavery is one of a handful of social sustainability issues that have risen in prominence over the past few years.
There is definitely “a massive push” for action driven by the climate strikes and protests.
Decarbonising the supply chain has been a priority for a while but “there is definitely a massive push” for action driven by the climate strikes and protests.
“Many people are starting to prepare for the last-ditch effort to mitigate before we start adapting… carbon mitigation is until high on the agenda.”
The organisation has been kept busy over the last few months with addressing the new modern slavery legislation, which requires all businesses earning over $100 million to report annually on their supply chain practices,. The first reports are due to be rolled out from this financial year.
From Jarick’s vantage point, she’s seeing industry in “third gear” trying to implement the act.
She’s observed a critical shift in thinking from “if” to “when” companies expect to find modern slavery in their supply chain.
“There were always a couple that were fully aware of what this might mean but now more are coming on board realising that this isn’t an easy journey to go down.”
Fortunately, the legislation is designed as a progressive effort over years, that’s not to be solved in a few months.
There’s also a number of businesses that are bringing in less than $100 million but are still looking to report voluntarily.
Streamlining the modern slavery reporting process
The not-for-profit recently worked with the Property Council on a new partnership with corporate social responsibility tech platform, Informed 365, to combat modern slavery in members’ supply chains.
The project involved bringing together 15 different members to champion the tool, which is intended to streamline the reporting burden on the supply chain. The platform ensures each supplier through the supply chain needs to complete the relevant information only once, not multiple times for multiple clients. It also helps them keep legal obligations front of mind.
It will help organisations navigate the 100-page plus guidance documents released by the government last month to assist businesses and organisations in complying with the new act.
The idea is to eradicate some of the barriers so that the resources are funnelled into removing modern slavery from supply chains, not reporting against the legislation.
Circular economy – the barriers
Jarick says the transition from linear supply chains to circular supply chains is a “very different problem” to modern slavery and that companies are “tackling it in very different ways”.
One of the barriers for companies is meeting building and construction standards when coming up with new products made out of recycled materials and intended for recycling at end-of-life.
Other problems are the size and scale of investment to transform some of these waste piles, and the finite lifespan of some of those waste streams.
It’s also important to recognise the full environmental impact of using recycled materials. For example, using a recycled component in a building product may cause it to become non-recyclable at the end-of-its life. Jarick says these are the types of issues to look out for.
The other trend in supply chain sustainability is branching out of the “sustainability bubble” to other professional roles, such as procurement.
“Sustainability, in many different forms, is expanding into other professional fields.”