How metrics can transform supply-chain sustainability

Everyone would like to see consumer products that have a smaller footprint on the environment, are more humane in their creation and are all-around more sustainable. But actually getting products like that to appear on store shelves is more challenging than it appears. Making those products more sustainable is the job of Sheila Bonini, CEO of the Sustainability Consortium.

So how is she doing it?

"The Sustainability Consortium is focused on driving more sustainable consumer products, and we're doing that with metrics," Bonini said during a Studio C interview with GreenBiz's John Davies at GreenBiz Forum 2015 in Phoenix, Ariz. "Our metrics drive questions that cascade all the way down the supply chain to try to change practices and behaviors where in the supply chain they matter."

The Sustainabilty Consortium, Bonini said, is concerned with more that the expected big trio of sustainability issues — carbon, water and waste. They are also conerned with human rights and animal welfare.

But what really excited Bonini was how the metrics gathered by the consortium are finally starting to turn into actionable guidelines.

"Now we have metrics that cover 60 to 80 percent of kind of the most important impacts in consumer products, and we can actually start to implement," Bonini said. "We as an organization can focus less on metrics and more on driving impact. And that's really exciting."

Those metrics allow retailers to talk to their suppliers, and the suppliers to their suppliers, so on and so forth down the supply chain.

"What we're trying to do is drive the right conversations so that everybody along the supply chain can start to be working towards the same things, and driving more sustainable consumer products," Bonini said.