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BSIF and sustainability

06 December 2022

Reading the excellent PPE Insights published with the September edition of HSM, it is clearly obvious that the PPE manufacturers are focussed on the huge issue of the day, sustainability. Alan Murray provides an insight.

SUSTAINABILITY IS a colossal topic and just about as complex as a subject can get. Nonetheless, it is clearly one that the BSIF and the membership must be across, ensuring that the PPE industry is playing its part and is seen to be discharging responsibilities, effectively and legitimately.

So, recognising the multifaceted nature of the Sustainability topic, we created a dedicated strategic working group which set out to develop the necessary approaches, phases to be gone through and timelines for key deliverables on the journey. The approach has been one which recognised two key elements, namely a BSIF “Position” and “Member Support”. 

The BSIF “Position” over time, seeks to articulate and define what sustainability means for the industry, in the context of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 17 “Sustainable Goals” defined by the United Nations, the UK Government’s 2050 “Net Zero” commitment and the challenges and opportunities presented by “Circularity” in PPE.

In terms of “Member Support” we will develop a framework to deliver guidance and support which will recognise statutory, voluntary and best practice elements. From the outset we will create a “Code of Conduct” which is undoubtedly required to provide governance over environmental claims for product and services. It is our intention that at all times the member and industry support will remain constructive and progressive, recognising that sustainability is a fast evolving subject which has the potential to put ever increasing pressure on businesses.

The “Position” and the fundamentals of “Member Support” have been established through engagement and actions following an in-depth survey of our member companies. The survey took views and opinion on readiness, expectations of assistance and support and an audit of the environmental demands against which the members were being judged by their customer base.

BSIF’s “Position” is being built upon, what we believe to be, 4 industry relevant pillars, comprising current Environment and Statutory requirements, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the role of PPE Technology and the up and downstream Business Impacts. Under the heading of “Statutory and Environment” we will recognise carbon dioxide emissions, energy and water use, waste, packaging and the opportunity and efforts on recyclability and recovery. Within this Statutory Environmental pillar, all of these headings will of course need further drilling into and defining as we progress.

Within the Corporate Social Responsibility pillar there are many challenges, not least because the supply chains for PPE and PPE components are often inter-continental and the task to maintain transparency and control can be substantial. It is our intention that in this category we include impacts on people, direct and indirect, worker conditions, and social values of supply chain partners. 

The pillars of “Environment” and “Corporate Social Responsibility” will be followed by considerations around the positive changes available through developing PPE Technology and finally drivers for sustainability emanating from sound businesses able to deliver continuous improvement, continuity and well-being of workforces and the opportunity to make a contribution to the wider community.

As I said earlier, sustainability is a wide and complex topic and we are determined that the creation of a cohesive and appropriate “position” will make a meaningful and enlightened contribution for the benefit of all.

The success of the project will of course require on-going targeted support and it makes sense to plan the support broadly within the demands emanating from the “Position” pillars previously outlined. 

Member integrity is central to BSIF and early in 20023 we will launch the Code of Conduct” based on members complying with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Green Claims Guidelines to manage out any “greenwashing” which has the obvious potential of misrepresentation. Abiding by and commitment to the CMA’s Green Claims Code is being embedded into the Federation’s “Rules of Membership”. 

Without doubt “Sustainability” is a multi-layered, complex subject meaning many things to many people. However, through this progressive, strategic initiative and the support that BSIF will provide, the UK market will ultimately have the opportunity to source PPE from suppliers who are not just highly capable and competent in their field, but suppliers who can be seen to be discharging their environmental obligations for the greater good of all.