( Photo courtesy Consumer Goods Forum )

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The Consumer Goods Forum, a global group of retailers and marketers that created the Global Food Safety Initiative, has a new initiative to create a benchmark for sustainability audits.

The Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative, according to the group’s website, is an independent benchmarking process, exclusively designed for third-party auditing and certification schemes. The group is initially focusing on social responsibility and labor standards and later will begin work on environmental standards.

“By demonstrating alignment with the SSCI criteria and achieving SSCI recognition, (audit) scheme owners signal a strong commitment to raising the bar while driving harmonization and alignment,” the group said on its website.

Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain and sustainability for the Produce Marketing Association, said the development of the SSCI could be significant.

Very few retailers don’t have some kind of sustainability requirements of their suppliers, and the move to benchmark sustainability expectations against a common standard could eventually reduce the number of sustainability audits, he said. Just as food safety audits are benchmarked against the Global Food Safety Initiative, the SSCI Benchmark criteria could offer a similar framework.

“There’s nothing that exists in the sustainability audit world that they can lean back into,” he said. 

“Once all the benchmark audit scheme is created, they’ll be able to lean back into that,” he said. With more than 150 different audit schemes that touch on sustainability in some way, that type of benchmarking standard could be valuable, he said.

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