19 December 2019

What’s new with supply chain management standards?

The international standard on “Chain of Custody” was formally approved as a “Draft International Standard” earlier this month. This is an important step towards the finalisation of the development of a horizontal chain of custody standard, suitable for any commodity, in any supply chain.

This standard aims to bring clarity on the various types of chain of custody, a key concept of supply chain management.

Simply put, chain of custody models can be sorted into different categories, depending on the level of information it is possible to guarantee:

  • if a product’s specific source and characteristic is known, we talk about “identity preserved”: for instance, for an organic apple coming from a specific field;
  • if a product’s specific source is not known, but its characteristics are, we talk about “segregation”: for instance, organic honey coming from various beehives;
  • if a product’s specific characteristics are known but only to a certain percentage; we talk about “controlled blending”.

In the discussions, ECOS highlighted the importance of the enforcement of these requirements, and the essential role that the entity overseeing this will have to play. ECOS also aimed to ensure that the various models, notably those allowing the mixing of “certified” and “non-certified” inputs, remain credible. In the last round of comments, we also called to link  the stringency of the chain of custody requirements with the risks that a specific value chain bears, such as child labour in textiles supply chains, or illegal logging in the wood sector.

The chain of custody approach is also instrumental to feed the discussions around bio-based content of products and recycled content. We believe that content-related claims should rely on certain, verifiable and certified information. This means that only chain of custody models which enable such content to be certain should be allowed – and this goes only for identity preserved, segregation and controlled blending.  

Yet, in the past few months, industry representatives have increasingly called for the use of mass balance . This would allow manufacturers to claim that their products contain recycled content, even without any actual presence of recycled materials, a total nonsense from the point of view of consumers.

In our opinion, chain of custody is about sharing product characteristics, such as its biobased or recycled content, all along the supply chain. With the rise of labels and associated environmental claims being increasingly seen as powerful marketing tools, it is fundamental that these rely on robust chain of custody requirements and verifiable information.


ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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