The Business Case for Future Thinking Material Transparency

Posted on 6/25/2015 8:46:33 AM By Paul Bertram

Over the last few years, manufacturers and their supply chains have been under pressure to report “FULL Disclosure” of Environmental and Human Health impacts. Full Disclosure is defined as 99% of ingredients to be screened including recycled content. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Hazards reporting such as HPDs (Health Product Declarations) and C2C certification are recognized by USGBC’s LEED Certification program under the category of Material Transparency. Making decisions on what are the right strategies in response to these complexities might include “Future Thinking.”

Fast Company magazine’s article titled Futures Thinking: The Basics by Jamis Cascio tells us that Futures Thinking as it's practiced today doesn't try to predict the future, but rather to illuminate unexpected implications of present-day issues.  The emphasis isn't on what will happen, but on what could happen, given various observed drivers. It is about strategic choices a company needs to make; sometimes it's about potential changes to an operating environment, and sometimes it's about gaining a better understanding of emerging markets, competitors, and/or stakeholders. 

Futures Thinking

Future Thinking is a good approach to develop a stronger business case for “Material Transparency” that goes beyond contributions to LEED credits in order to justify return on investment.

Continuous product improvement comes to the top of the Futures Thinking list in consideration of material transparency reporting. EMS (Environmental Management System) program/certifications can provide the structure to begin comprehensive objectives and strategies for managing chemical inventories of ingredients, alternative & comparable assessment, chemical risk assessment, energy and environmental impacts. Incorporating well established standards such as ISO 14001 for EMS and ISO 14044 for Life Cycle Assessment can provide assurance to company management and employees, as well as external stakeholders, that environmental impacts and human health is being measured and improved. These ISO standards can also be integrated with other management functions and assists companies in meeting their environmental and economic goals. Reporting “Full Disclosure” of ingredients would likely require expanding the scope of an EMS program.

Changing times require changing strategies

Material Transparency of Environmental and Human health impacts should be considered as part of a more comprehensive “Future Thinking’ assessment structure.  Consider the following in your Future Thinking strategies:

  • Corporate responsibility
  • Energy Efficiency/GHG Reductions
  • Sustainability Reporting
  • Corporate image
  • Extended Producer Responsibilities
  • End of Life Impacts
  • Financial Implications of responding to “Full Disclosure” and related revenues
  • Risk Management of this information and potential liabilities
  • Industry Wide Association influence/direction

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W Edwards Deming

Opinions in this Blog do necessarily represent the views of ASC.