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Traceability: The Key to Sustainable Supply Chains in Food, Fashion, and Consumer Goods Industries

Traceability is crucial for sustainability in the food and beverage, fashion, and consumer goods industries. It allows consumers to know the origin of their products, how they were made, and if they meet sustainability standards. Traceability also enables businesses to make informed decisions about their supply chains and ensure that they are sourcing materials ethically and sustainably. However, achieving traceability can be challenging for small, medium, and large brands.

How materiality assessments can help

Materiality assessments are now given greater prominence in reporting frameworks such as the EU's Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the global reporting framework GRI. These assessments help companies of all sizes identify their operations' most significant social, environmental, economic and governance impacts, allowing them to develop strategies that address these issues. With increasing consumer and investor demand, Materiality Assessments are no longer the preserve of large companies and corporates.

By determining the critical sustainability issues most relevant to its operations and stakeholders, a company can focus its efforts on the areas that will impact its sustainability performance the most. This holistic approach to sustainability focuses on the interconnectedness of financial, social, and environmental issues.

Materiality assessments are critical in developing sustainability strategies that focus on supply chain transparency. By looking at material issues through the lens of traceability, businesses can identify the essential areas of their supply chain that require attention, such as labour practices, animal welfare, or environmental impact. This can help companies to develop strategies to address these issues, such as implementing responsible sourcing practices or investing in sustainable production methods.

Achieving traceability with technology

To achieve traceability in supply chains, Blockchain is becoming the go-to tech. Blockchain provides an immutable record of transactions, which can help to create transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain. Using blockchain, businesses can track the movement of goods and materials from the source to the end consumer, ensuring that each step is recorded and verified. This can help to prevent fraud, improve efficiency, and reduce waste in the supply chain.

In the food and beverage industry, blockchain can be used to track the origin of ingredients, ensuring that they are sustainably sourced and free from contamination. This can help promote equality, prevent foodborne illnesses and ensure that the food is safe for consumption. It can also help to reduce waste by allowing businesses and individuals to track the expiry dates of food products allowing consumers to make informed decisions about the products they purchase.

In the fashion industry, blockchain can track the origin of materials, ensuring that they are ethically sourced and sustainable, preventing human rights abuses, such as forced labour or child labour, and reducing the fashion industry's environmental impact. It can also help to improve transparency and accountability, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about the products they purchase.

Getting started

If you're looking to do a materiality assessment, there are a few steps you can follow. The first step is to clarify the purpose of the assessment. Ask yourself, what do you hope to achieve through the assessment? Are you looking to define the thematic focus for a sustainability report, exchange with various stakeholders, or develop a comprehensive sustainability strategy? Also, consider which stakeholders you want to involve in the process and how you plan to visualize the results.

Once you have a clear purpose, you can start compiling potentially relevant topics. Look to standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), SASB, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to identify relevant topics to your industry. Consider your company's internal priorities and which topics are most important to your stakeholders. Group these topics together to obtain a reasonable number for assessment.

Next, assess the chosen topics. You can involve management representatives and stakeholders from different perspectives, such as customers, employees, suppliers, NGOs, and external experts. Consider using surveys, interviews, workshops, or panels to assess the topics.

After assessing the topics, you can present the results in a materiality matrix, which visually represents the prioritized topics.

Finally, present the results to your company management for validation. Remember that materiality assessments are not objective analyses but judgements from various perspectives. Be open to making adjustments if necessary, and remember that the final decision on your company's priorities ultimately lies with the management.

Our Approach

Our approach to materiality assessment is based on three dimensions, which are interconnected and aligned with key reporting standards and regulatory requirements.

The first dimension is business relevance, where management representatives prioritize topics that are essential for long-term business success. This perspective is important for reporting in accordance with the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) recommendations, amongst others.

The second dimension is stakeholder/citizen relevance, where the needs and expectations of the most important stakeholders are assessed and prioritized. This perspective is relevant for reporting in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.

The third dimension is the impact on sustainable development, where the topics that have the greatest positive or negative impact on the economy, society, and the environment are prioritized along the value chains. This perspective is relevant for reporting in accordance with the GRI standards and the IIRC recommendations, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

By considering these three dimensions, our approach to materiality assessment ensures connectivity to reporting standards and regulatory requirements while linking strategy and reporting.


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