ISO 20400: Looking Forward By Shaun McCarthy OBE

Between the years of 2013-17, I spent a lot of time, effort, and not a lot of expense leading the UK delegation to develop ISO 20400, the world’s first international standard for sustainable procurement practice. This involved travelling to a lot of exotic places to attend days and days of mostly boring meetings, but we finally reached consensus between 40+ countries and the standard we produced works. It’s not perfect, but it works.

Since the standard was published, I have used the resources of our social enterprise, Action Sustainability Community Interest Company, to build a community of practice in sustainable procurement centred around our global knowledge sharing platform.

This community has grown significantly, more than 36,000 individuals have interacted with this platform from 186 different countries, over 600 users have taken our online or offline self-assessments from 53 countries in 9 different languages. We have over 12,500 social media followers and access to over 150,000 people through Facebook groups.

The standard has been formally adopted by 17 National Standards Bodies (NSBs) and a further 30 NSBs offer the standard for sale. ISO 20400 has been officially translated into 13 languages. Evidence from the countries we represent and our global activities confirms that the standard provides a robust strategic framework to enable any organisation of any size in any sector or geography to drive sustainability performance through their supply chains.

I accept that much has changed since publication in 2017 and global trends are driving more and more organisations to place sustainability at the top of their agenda and to recognise that supply chains play a critical role. I believe the standard remains a robust framework to help to address today’s challenges and those we face in the future. Our video has further feedback from experts from all around the world.

The standard will be subject to formal review in 2022. National Standards Bodies around the world will have the opportunity to vote on 3 possible actions: withdraw, revise/amend, or confirm. I believe that time spent amending the document will be time we could all spend implementing the recommendations of the standard as it stands and would urge you to lobby your NSB to vote Confirm.

If you are unsure how to contact your NSB, you can find details here. Furthermore, I would ask you to use your influence to help people understand the significant benefits the standard can bring.

I wish you success on your sustainable procurement journey.

Shaun McCarthy

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