11 Nov 2021

Are your quality systems ready for a sustainability shake up?

According to the Sustainability Planning Guide 2022 (published by worldsustainabilityleaders.com), which is a global community-intelligence network for Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO's) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) executives, the top priority for sustainability leaders across organizations is to embed sustainability processes throughout multiple areas of their business.

Quality has always been about managing risk, reducing costs, improving efficiency, and achieving corporate development objectives; however, that landscape is about to get much more complicated. As sustainability has become increasingly important, many organizations have been forced to rethink strategies and move beyond compliance, performance, and safety to meet customer's sustainability expectations.

To achieve sustainable development goals, a whole new set of environmental and sustainability considerations are being introduced by marketing, R&D, supply chain, as well as other operational functions. Using the quality system as a foundation to build sustainability is a key opportunity to safeguard the traditional quality mandate while embedding sustainability into the corporate culture, processes, and plans throughout an organizations' management systems, to achieve growth targets, attract investors, increase customer satisfaction, and more.

Key Considerations for Sustainability and Quality Assurance Leaders:

  • Due diligence and compliance with environmental regulations in marketing: There will be a new set of considerations and/or regulations that will impact how quality is perceived and delivered.
    • What does quality look-like through the eyes of consumers?
  • New materials (bio-based, biodegradable, recyclable, etc.): The introduction of new materials to reduce waste and carbon emissions can create complexities because the performance of these materials over time is still unknown.
    • How do you validate that these materials are they made of what your suppliers say they are?
    • How do you assess long-term safety and end-of-life for materials that is inconsistent, and have no historical data to use to assess response to varying humidity, UV light, temperatures, etc.?
  • Sustainability Factors: New sustainability initiatives and considerations will force companies to re-evaluate their priorities and better understand the tradeoffs.
  • A bio-based plastic may have a lower carbon footprint and help reduce waste, but what if its lifespan is only stable for a quarter of the time of plastic derived from petroleum? Which material is more sustainable? Which one is safer?
  • New KPIs: All eyes are on global leaders to step up their responsibilities and make positive tangible changes to limit carbon emissions, as well as to ensure accountability in managing their carbon footprint.  As a result, organizations may establish different methods of production or implement carbon-saving processes to drive reduction.
  • Is your quality system ready to maintain consistency for these new ways of doing business?

The above list outlines just a few key considerations and supports the reason why getting your quality house in order will be critical to future success. Sustainability initiatives will impact product development, marketing, and supply chains. Quality teams and systems are essential to help ensure that changes to designs, manufacturing, and go-to-market planning run smoothly. Understanding how to use the various quality tools to solve and address the sustainability concerns will be of top importance for every quality leader and practitioner.

We're Here to Help:

To learn more about how we can support your business, visit: https://www.intertek.com/product-assurance/

Check out our white paper, "The Road to 'Net Zero': https://www.intertek.com/assuris/the-road-to-net-zero-white-paper/.


Wesley Chen,
Vice President, Sustainability, Quality & Safety
Intertek Assuris


Today's expert blogger, Wesley Chen, manages our global sustainability, quality, and safety team within Intertek Assuris. He has led advisory and implementation projects across all of the industries that Intertek operates (i.e. automotive, packaging, consumer goods, cosmetics, mining, etc.), and he has worked with and advises several companies from multi-billion dollar retailers to small family owned businesses.

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