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Rio – Grand

They say money can’t buy you happiness but it gets you a better class of misery.

Leading the UK delegation in the development of the new standard has not been as glamorous as it appears either. Firstly the “UK delegation” sounds rather grand but in fact there are only two expert delegates, myself and my colleague Cathy Berry plus Colin McKerracher, our brilliant BSI delegate. Secondly, you don’t get paid and you have to pay your own travel expenses. Thirdly, the meetings can be pretty turgid. We met for a week of solid meetings once or twice a year over four years, typically working 12 hours per day and often late into the night. The last series of meetings in Rio followed this pattern but I have to admit a venue across the road from Copacabana Beach gave us a better class of boredom.

So the standard was finally signed off and we said our fond farewells and went our separate ways. The standard will be published in March/April 2017 through National Standards Bodies around the world.

There are a few things you need to know about the standard. Firstly it is a guidance standard, not a requirements standard, so it cannot be certified. We have already seen a German company offering to certify businesses against the standard. One of our committee asked for a quote. She was assured that they had purchased the standard, despite the fact it has not been published yet; and that they are experts in the standard, despite the fact there was no German delegation on the committee; and that they could offer certification and re-certification every three years, despite the fact it is a standard that cannot be certified! Buyer beware, as they say!

Secondly, the structure is very similar to that of BS 8903 which is being used in many places, not just in the UK. It contains sections on Fundamentals, Policy and Strategy, Organising Procurement and describes the procurement process and how to do it differently. It incorporates a lot of new thinking that was not around when we developed BS 8903, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business, The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of complicity and due diligence. Those striving to comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act will be getting their heads round this concept.

Thirdly, when the standard is published, BS 8903 will cease to exist. This means if you are currently working to BS 8903 you will be using an obsolete standard. However the good news is the standards are not that different.

Developing a standard with groups from over 40 countries from very different cultures is not easy and of course it is not perfect but I think it’s pretty good.


Shaun McCarthy OBE

December 2016

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