Field: Carbon footprint, Dissemination of information, Sustainable consumption
Global Technical function: Promoting sustainable practices
Technical Function Unit: Benchmarking, Combining activities, Designing indicators, Disseminating, Networking, Performance standard, Providing consultancy, Providing support (advise/consultancy), Sustainability criteria
Geographic Area: United Kingdom
Type of actors: Consumers, NGOs, Policy makers, Universities

The Product Sustainability Forum (PSF)

The Product Sustainability Forum (PSF) is a collaboration of retail institutions and companies based in the United Kingdomproviding support and a platform for these organisations to work together to measure, improve and communicate the environmental performance of the grocery and home improvement products.[1]

 

The challenge

The  scarcity of resources is a global challenge. One part of the solution is certainly waste management based on the growing understanding that 'waste' is actually 'material with value', and consequently governments are increasing efforts to tackle these issues.[2] Promoting sustainable practices requires the collaboration of stakeholders such as manufacturers, retailers, NGOsuniversities, and consumers. Further developing the measurement of the environmental performance of products can give support to the innovation competences of firms by combining activities and setting a performance standard for sustainability criteria.

The network

Many companies both in retail as well as in manufacturing have already started measuring the environmental performance of products. Aiming at increasing the efficiency of these efforts by coordinating and leading this work, PSF was launched by WRAP[3] in 2010. Based on collecting best practices and disseminating this knowledge to the stakeholders, sector solutions occur which in turn lead to new business opportunities for individual companies. Hence, networkingproviding consultancy, and benchmarking are main aspects of the work.[4] A large number of institutions and companies have supported the PSF since its inception in 2010. By now, PSF represents a collaboration of organisations made up of grocery and home improvement retailers and suppliers, academics, NGOs and UK Government representatives.[5] Being a member of PSF means being part of a powerful networking structure and promoting sustainable product issues primarily in the UK.

The benefits

The PSF was established to lead that process of measuring the environmental performance of products in order to help policy makers to prioritise which products to focus their efforts on.[6] Topic guides and action plans have been designed by PSF to assist manufacturers and retailers via the dissemination of information needed to build the internal case for change for a wide range of topics.[7] By now, product slide decks and hotspot data are available for the top 50 grocery products that are likely to contribute most to the environmental impacts associated with U.K. household consumption.[8] Cost benefit spreadsheets, which accompany some of the action plans, are designed to be used for calculating the business case, and tailored using the considerations outlined in the action plans.

Further deployment

The concept of PSF is publicly funded and validated at full scale, qualifying it for an estimated level 7 on the generic maturity scale GML.[9] In 2013 a report was published on the environmental impact of grocery products as well as a range of practical materials to help move towards more sustainable consumption. Additionally, pathfinder projects are available to learn from good practice examples.[10] By using these materials, companies adopt best practice and apply the relevant principles of good governance. With its innovative holistic approach, PSF facilitates disseminating information on the sustainability of products by providing easily accessible and comprehensible information on sustainability in the retail industry.[11] Designing indicators, as well as increasing the understanding and implementation of eco-innovation aspects in retail, will help reduce the environmental and social impacts, i.e. carbon footprint, associated with global consumption.

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