Greater disclosure needed to ‘cut the fluff’ out of sustainability

Product transparency has the potential to transform sustainability in practice and effect long-term behavioural change across society, according to a leading authority on CSR.

Ramon Arratia, sustainability director at Interface, says that if companies focus their efforts on full product transparency it could align consumer behaviour, supply chains, policy-making and reporting.

“It is the future of all kinds of businesses – not just manufacturers, but supermarkets, banks, chemical companies and consultants,” he argued.

The main impact of a bank is not its building energy use, but to whom it lends, he pointed out.

“Supermarkets should ask their suppliers to provide environmental product declarations the same way they supply today nutrition information,” he said.

“Lawyers and consultants should be transparent about who they work with and the ethical standards of their products and services.”

A strong advocate of product sustainability, Arratia regularly campaigns for stronger and more efficient regulation based on product standards.

He is particularly critical of the plethora of green labels and marketing claims that have arisen during the past decade to support the corporate sustainability agenda, and says these must be backed up by hard evidence.

Under a culture of full product transparency, companies would undertake lifecycle assessment for all their products and services, identifying their biggest impacts and where they can make the greatest difference.

The full environmental impacts of their products and services would be disclosed, using easily understood metrics.

This would allow customers to make meaningful comparisons in their purchasing decisions and provide governments with a platform to reward products and services with the lowest impacts.

Arratia presents his case for “cutting the fluff” out of sustainability in a short new ebook just launched.

Maxine Perella

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