Throughout history the human race has required a range of resources to meet the whole population’s requirements. These resources can have a wide range of functions in society across all sectors. For example, phosphorus (P) is extracted from Moroccan quarries and used in fertiliser for agricultural applications. Phosphorus is also found in TCPP (tris(1-chloro-2-propyl)phosphate), which is used in polyurethane foam as a flame retardant.
Such an array of uses for raw materials has more serious implications for those resources classed as ‘finite’. High extraction rates of these natural reserves further increases concerns surrounding resource depletion. High extraction rates have been largely accredited to the exponential growth in population over the last 200 years, where it has increased from 990 million in 1800 to 7.7 billion in 2020. Within modern history, between 1999 and 2011, the population has grown from 6 billion to 7 billion. This exponential growth therefore requires sustainable and readily available resources to be utilised.
The population growth coupled with the requirement to satisfy a higher living standard puts an increased strain on demands from organisations. In turn, this causes inherent problems for organisations when they are sourcing materials. There is now increased pressure on all aspects of the supply chain, from the extraction process, the manufacturing process and through to disposal by the consumer. The continuously increasing population means that resources need to be extracted and shipped at a faster rate than ever before. This can lead to catastrophic social and environmental effects, which can occur through harmful practices.
These practices can include:
- Environmental degradation
- Human rights violations (i.e. slavery, child labour)
- Poor working conditions
- Harsh management systems
- Funding corrupt regimes
However, there are steps that organisations can take to minimise these social and environmental effects and ensure that they source responsibly.
So what is responsible sourcing?
Responsible sourcing is a voluntary practice carried out at an organisational level through managing supply chains, which ensures that the company takes into account the social, socio-economic and environmental considerations of sourcing materials. This is commonly demonstrated by an organisation through their procurement policy.
Adopting this approach of sourcing materials causes a knock-on effect in reducing the harmful practises, because these are identified and subsequently cut from the supply chain. This therefore stops these practices from being supported economically and stop operations in un-ethical/environmental conditions. Ethical companies make an effort to ensure that they source raw materials and components for their products responsibly to ensure that they do not support these practices. To help reduce the total implications that a product has on a global scale, responsible sourcing should be voluntarily adopted by all aspects of every industry.
How can businesses prove they source responsibly?
The international Organization for Standardization (IOS) is an international standard-setting body made from various notional standard organisations across the globe. ISO sets out targets that need to be met to allow management systems within an organisation to be certified. The environmental management system certification is covered under the ISO 14001 standard, of which we are certified.
ISO 14001 produces a framework that is designed to provide continuous improvement of the environmental management system and, therefore, can help reduce an organisations environmental impact. An environmental management system should consider the companies climate change mitigation, resource use, resource efficiency, soil contamination, water pollution, waste reduction and reduce the costs. This allows environmental commitment to be portrayed by the company to the public.
With a variety of sectors involved with responsible sourcing, there is a variety of different sector specific schemes. One example is the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). The PEFC is an organisation that promotes sustainable forestry practices globally, with 325 million hectares of forests being certified (https://www.pefc.org/). Because the PEFC certifies forests around the globe, this requires the framework to take into account different legislation, ecosystem requirements, socio-cultural and socio-economic context. This approach to promoting sustainability allows for local requirements to be met, whilst still contributing to reduction in net global CO2 emissions as a carbon sink. All Kingspan TEK Building System panels use timber sourced from PEFC certified sources, ensuring that the OSB facing is sourced responsibly.
An approach to improving social and environmental awareness within the construction industry is a framework that was implemented by Building Research Establishment in 2009 called BES 6001. This framework is seen as a standard for responsible sourcing within the sourcing of construction products. BES 6001 enforces the requirement of being able to trace materials back to their sources throughout the entire production process. When a company is awarded the certification by BRE, there are 4 stages of certification. Firstly, if only the compulsory requirements are met, then the product will be certified as Pass. If an organisation wishes to be certified at a higher standard (good, very good and excellent), then other requirements need to be met. For example, meeting with shareholders and discussing the ecotoxicity of the manufacturing process or products produced in the manufacturing process. In encompassing this approach, this has allowed companies to show directly to the public how they are reducing their impact on global issues with a specific product. For more information on BES 6001 visit the BRE website. For details of our BES 6001 certification please visit our Certification page on our website.
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, (2020). “Facts & Figures,” URL:https://www.pefc.org/ Accessed 21/01/2020
Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2020) - "World Population Growth". Published online at www.OurWorldinData.org Retrieved from: https://www.ourworldindata.org/worldpopulation-growth Accessed: 14/01/2020