The public consultation for The Consumer Goods Forum’s Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) closed on 23rd September and we have announced the launch of the first scope, for processing facilities, at the recent Sustainable Retail Summit in Lisbon. It’s hard to believe that it was just this April when we first announced the creation of the SSCI, after the CGF Board approved this important initiative for our industry in June 2017.

We have come a long way since then, and the response from the CGF members, as well as the external stakeholders we have spoken to, has really validated why now is the right time to begin such an important initiative. Today, CGF members are faced with huge challenges in their supply chains, from human and labour rights topics such as tackling forced labour, health & safety and working hours, to environmental issues such as sustainable sourcing and deforestation.

Of course, we’re only just beginning this journey. Our peers from other CGF member companies have really shown that the industry is committed to driving action on sustainable supply chains. We have been impressed by the progress that has been made in a relatively short time. However, there is still a lot of work to look forward to.

Benchmarking Our Way to Success

SSCI has been designed to fill a gap in the market by benchmarking and recognising robust schemes that address sustainability compliance issues and drive positive change. This will create trust in sustainability standards worldwide. It is modelled on the success of the CGF’s other benchmarking work of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). The GFSI benchmarking and recognition process has clearly shown how such a system can contribute to increasing efficiency for suppliers and buyers by reducing audit duplication.

To replicate that success in sustainability, the SSCI will benchmark both social and environmental compliance schemes, focusing initially on social compliance. Our first benchmarking scope will include audit and certification schemes that audit processing facilities in the food and non-food sector.

The public consultation that took place from 25th July to 23rd September was an important step in helping us to get it right from the offset. Covering our proposed Social Compliance and Scheme Management Criteria, which were designed with the support of key stakeholders, the public consultation sought to gain important feedback from all stakeholders. The criteria will work to align currently diverging industry expectations in third-party auditing and certification programmes, so we very much thank all those who took the time to provide comments.

Next up? We have now almost finished the integration of the comments and have planned to publish the criteria in early 2019. After this, the benchmarking can begin!


Of course, as we look to reduce duplication in global sustainability standards, it’s also important we work with other relevant organisations and standard-setters to seek alignment.  And, despite being so young, the SSCI is already breaking ground in this area.

Earlier this year, the CGF and the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) announced their collaboration to provide a benchmark and recognition tool for social compliance schemes in the seafood sector. A joint workshop was held in June in Barcelona to gather first input from seafood stakeholders. We are currently working with a joint taskforce, made up of CGF members and GSSI partners and affiliated partners, to develop concrete recommendations for the development of a social compliance benchmark tool applicable to the seafood sector.

As co-chairs of the SSCI, we look forward to working closely with GSSI on the development of the seafood-specific scopes and exploring further partnerships soon.

Integrating Industry Benchmarks

As people who have worked on sustainability and compliance schemes for many years, we also know that while it’s great to have a new way of working, it doesn’t mean much if people don’t understand how and why it works, and what’s in it for them.

So, how can companies use industry benchmarks such as GFSI, GSSI and, very soon, SSCI?

Third-party audits are just one tool in the toolbox companies can use for their responsible sourcing strategy. Companies are also taking additional action to drive positive change in the industry by, for example, getting engaged in the CGF’s work on forced labour and deforestation. Our work supports sectoral programmes such as the IDH programmes for flowers, fruit and vegetable.

It remains up to the individual company to map their supply chain, identify risk areas and put relevant strategies in place to address these risks. And, whenever companies choose to work with third-party audit or certification schemes, SSCI will be here to provide guidance on credible and robust schemes.

And, core to the CGF’s work is sharing this knowledge and relevant best practices. This will be an important step in our journey as we work to integrate industry benchmarks and help members and scheme owners understand their role and the benefits of being SSCI-recognised.

This post was written and contributed by:

Hugo Byrnes
VP Product Integrity
Ahold Delhaize

Vineet Khanna
Global Head Supply Chain