WAP Sustainability Consulting works with manufacturers and brands to help them meet customers’ expectations on sustainability – specifically around life cycle assessment (LCA), carbon management and product ingredient transparency, particularly in regards to chemicals management.
We spoke with founder William Paddock to learn more about these current hot spots in the ongoing quest for supply chain transparency.
What are some of the key issues or buzzwords of concern for companies right now?
William Paddock: I tend to see organizations struggling with three things:
- Meeting stated goals – 2020 is coming quick and many organizations have stated goals they are trying to achieve. We are helping lots of organizations manage their data and performance right now. Many organizations have baselines that were improperly calculated, or were poorly managed when they were established back in 2008 or 2010. Most of the time, the person responsible for hitting the 2020 goal is different from the person who created the initial inventory and set the goal in the first place. This situation is really challenging for sustainability leaders and we really enjoy helping organizations through this.
- Developing processes and procedures for sustainability – similar to point #1, building processes and procedures to make sustainability sustainable is something we are heavily involved in right now. It isn’t very sexy work, but so many sustainability teams operate thin and have very few defined processes and procedures to support their work. We find that better-organized sustainability departments are higher performers. They are ranked higher, recognized more, and are able to tackle the types of projects every sustainability leader wants to tackle when they get into this space.
- Transparency – sustainability departments have been encumbered with the added chore of managing transparency. The market expects organizations to be transparent about the impacts of their operations, the materials and ingredients in their products, and the risks inherent in their supply chains. Transparency is a huge buzzword right now, and transparent material ingredients is a core request we see.
What other types of requests are you hearing from companies around transparency?
tools and solutions
in the value chain
Good Supply Chain
Pavilion at SB'18 Vancouver!WP: Typically we see manufacturers being asked for chemical and ingredient data from customers like Walmart, Target, IKEA, Home Depot; or, say, if you make a building product like carpet or furniture, customers like Harvard, Google or Kaiser Permanente are making the requests. It seems every week we are seeing a new format or request for transparency of ingredients.
The challenge with these requests is that all manufacturers purchase products from suppliers, and more times than not, getting information about a product you purchase from a supplier is a real struggle. The only way to know you don’t have a chemical of concern in your product is to know what is actually in your product and most manufacturers don’t know that. There are major negotiations that have to occur between suppliers and brands to exchange proprietary data that is not required to be shared by any regulations. Companies want to protect their special sauce and we respect that, which is why we developed tools and processes to enable sharing of ingredient information in a manner that protects IP.
How are you and your clients working to address that conflict?
WP: We created a tool called our Value Chain Chemical Management System (VCCM®), which enables suppliers to exchange ingredient information by protecting the IP and meet customer requests for the same information. We utilize a parent/child data-sharing platform to protect IP but still be able to communicate hazard information through GreenScreen for Safer Choice Assessments. The VCCM has allowed us to work with thousands of suppliers around the globe and help organizations create thousands of material ingredient transparency documents like Health Product Declarations (HPDs), Manufacturers Inventories (MIs) and Declare Labels that communicate product ingredient information in a standardized format. We have also been able to use the VCCM® to answer KPIs in various TSC (The Sustainability Consortium) Category Sustainability Profiles. Overall, the feedback we get consistently is that the VCCM is helping manufacturers reach a higher level of performance when it comes to transparent material health.
Tracking products through data along supply chains is becoming more prevalent. Is your VCCM system exclusively for ingredient transparency? Do you have other tools for activating data or to aid clients with supply chain tracking?
WP: The VCCM is certainly geared at ingredient transparency, but one of our promises to the supply chain is a complete VCCM, which means we will not bother you again for at least a year. Survey fatigue is real and we want to do our part as a solution provider. For each client, we customize the VCCM outreach to make sure we are collecting the relevant sustainability information from each supplier. Sometimes this includes LCA information, carbon data, recycled content information, traceability information and so forth. Our goal is to minimize the number of times we need to engage the supplier by asking better questions.
In the end, the goal is to develop sound processes and procedures for managing the exchange of sustainability data from the supply chain, and the VCCM® is our tool for brands and manufacturers to do so. We use the data to enable reporting to CDP, for GRI reports, in EcoVadis questionnaires, in TSC CSP responses, for EPDs and HPDs, Project Gigaton, the Chemical Footprint Project and so forth.
It is a super clean offering that helps get sustainability leaders in companies out from behind spreadsheets, and into the organization to help do what they were hired to do.
How does this supply chain work play into WAP's focus on Good Health?
WP: WAP Sustainability is all about helping brands understand and measure their sustainability impacts. We pride ourselves in being able to help define what is material to each organization across the ESG horizontal.
When it comes to the definition of “Good Health,” I think the definition is really ambiguous. If "Good Health" means “Safe," and “Safe" is defined by “Regulatory" terms, then we are all royally screwed. If “Safe" = "Non-Toxic,” then what is the definition of “Toxic"? How are we ensuring and managing a non-toxic world? We have 80,000+ chemicals in commerce, nine of which are banned in the U.S. The probability of that math is standard deviations from believable – especially when most of the time, we have no exchange of ingredient information between brands and suppliers to base any of these decisions upon.
That said, I don’t think companies are out trying to poison the world. I think the gap is good data. When we show our clients chemicals of concern in their products, the response is motivating. They want action, they want alternatives, they want to engage with the supply chain to find solutions, they want to act swiftly and promptly and they want to move the needle on health. The difference in the equation is knowledge and data. Without better ingredient data, our definition of healthy doesn’t change and we go on thinking we are “safe." We love that our supply chain work through the VCCM is generating data to prompt healthier material dialogues and decision-making.
What can attendees expect from the Innovation Lab in the Good Supply Chain Pavilion at SB’18Vancouver?
WP: I tell people that a year in sustainability is like a dog year. What this industry can accomplish in one year is the equivalent of other industries working for seven years. I think 2017/2018 has been a really interesting year for sustainability with lots of new programs, solutions, concepts and intentions coming to market. It is reminiscent for me of 2008 when we had lots of major sustainability moments take place. I think attendees should come with an open mind, and I fully expect them will be able to find at least one good idea in the Good Supply Chain Pavilion to bring back to their companies.