How to build trust in sustainable innovation

Innovations aimed at reducing carbon emissions are increasing rapidly - from lab-grown meat and edible packaging to smog vacuums. However, there’s an increasing deficit of consumer trust globally and that’s where new innovations, standards and marks of trust, such as the BSI Kitemark™ certification, are essential for building public confidence in products, services and organisations

Many countries are a long way off meeting their Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. As November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) gets closer, most are looking at ways to accelerate sustainable innovation and find new ways to meet that goal.

The last year has shown the speed with which consumer sentiment can change on sustainability impacts, from environmental damage to social inequality.

Wide-ranging factors — from Covid-19 to the effect of campaigners Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough — have accelerated people’s readiness to protest against organisations that do not demonstrate sustainable practices.

Organisations need to be part of the race to innovate in order to remain both sustainable and resilient for the long-term while helping to meet environmental regeneration targets.
Likewise, they need to build trust by proving that their innovations genuinely promote sustainability - rather than adding to the challenge.

Transparency is trust
Sustainability standards and certification schemes, such as those provided by BSI (British Standards Institution), use rigorous assessments and testing to help build trust in sustainability initiatives.

Dan Purtell, group innovation director at BSI, says, “Organisations need to inspire trust by demonstrating that their products, services and processes are built sustainably — and back those claims. They need to tell their sustainability story in a way that is transparent and allows independent and immediate verification.”

He adds, “At BSI we innovate around our purpose of trust, sustainability and resilience. Our solutions are designed to automate trust mechanisms and make it easy for a consumer to validate product or organisational sustainability claims.”

Organisations need to be part of the race to innovate in order to remain both sustainable and resilient

BSI offers a range of best practice measures in this area, such as the publicly available specification (PAS) 2060 standard for demonstrating carbon neutrality. This is relevant to organisations of any size who wishes to demonstrate its sustainability credentials – from aerospace to construction.

Recognising the importance of pioneering developments to sustainability goals, BSI also provides an Innovation Management Kitemark that certifies a company’s credentials in this field and helps them realise return on investment.

“Markets are experiencing a convergence of concern around sustainability, security and social issues. These standards and certifications are instrumental in helping organisations with their sustainability journey. Transparency is trust and corporations that adopt the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals understand this well. They are adopting new ways to demonstrate their commitment to the environment,” said Purtell. “You manage what you can measure, so standards will play a key role in underpinning sustainability efforts in the lead up to COP26.”

To match companies’ sustainability aims, BSI’s standards also align with two of the most broadly used frameworks — the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Riding the crest of innovation
BSI has been innovating in the field of standardisation since its launch in 1901. Recently, its focus has been on bringing certification to clients through disruptive technologies, such as digital assurance, which focuses on the next generation of auditing and consulting solutions.

“Instead of flying consultants or auditors around the globe for every assessment, we now have a range of immersive technologies that allow us to audit online, and via smart wearables, for example,” says Purtell. “We also use other technologies to provide assessments, training and certification, such as light detection and ranging (LiDAR), drones and interactive drone maps.”

Beyond certification
BSI is also moving beyond traditional certification to help clients meet their sustainability objectives through innovative measurement, assessment, analytics and solutions.
“Our assessment and certification work creates a wealth of data available in real-time that is extremely valuable to our clients. This enables BSI analytics to support organisations with other sustainability goals, such as reducing waste in their product cycle. Typical examples are helping a syringe manufacturer reduce single-use plastics or a delivery service optimise its cardboard packaging.”

The wealth of data also allows the organisation to provide predictive analytics, identifying where a company is likely to experience waste, security or quality issues, for example.
BSI has taken this further by introducing predictive modelling of weather and air
quality over the next 15 years. This helps it forecast where environmental changes could disrupt supply chains, create foreseeable sourcing challenges and suggest mitigation strategies. 

“By using multiple climate and environmental data variables, we can forecast and provide actionable information on TCFD targets, asset risk and supply chain exposures,” says Purtell.

Blockchain and supply chain transparency
Another innovation at BSI has been to adopt blockchain technology to help organisations see the full custody chain of a product — origins, traceability and even product authenticity and thereby build trust in their supply chains.

Purtell says: “We’re committed to providing a full suite of solutions that inspire consumer trust. Using blockchain technology allows companies to verify any false certification claims and fake products in supply chains.”

Reflecting on its own approach to sustainable development, Purtell says. “We’re committed to making a difference to people, society, and the planet, and sustainable innovation is helping us do just that.”

“This matters because our employees want to work for an organisation where they feel connected to the purpose, know what they do is meaningful and positively impacts the world. And this matters to our clients too, as they want to know that they’re working with a responsible organisation” says Purtell. “We’re committed to ensuring our knowledge and work make a difference and provide meaning to all who work for and partner with us.”

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