Continuous improvement of sustainability

By communicating their environmental performances or by adopting international standards, companies have the option of taking sustainability one step further. 

Companies which have become familiar with sustainable manufacturing have the option of expanding their knowledge and taking advantage of the measures introduced using additional measures. 

Going further to improve sustainability

The various steps for improving a company’s sustainability described in the OECD guidelines are not exhaustive. Additional options exist to strengthen environmental performance.

  • Develop indicators. Not all of a company’s activities are necessarily covered by the 18 indicators considered. It is therefore necessary to define your priorities periodically, in order to identify the company’s requirements along with the tools necessary to meet those requirements.

    Standard 14031 of the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) provides general information about the conception and use of the environmental performance evaluation and about the identification and selection of sustainability indicators:
  • Consider the full life of products. Several methods take into account the full impact of the life cycle of products, from manufacture to elimination. Although these methods are quite technical from the point of view of data analysis and calculation, they facilitate the design of sustainable, economic and quality products from an early stage of development. The most well-known of these methods is the life cycle assessment (LCA), standardization on an international level of the series of standard ISO 14040:
  • Use external sustainability standards. Some labels serve to establish specific sustainability standards for different environmental aspects. They are usually generated by government, industry or non-governmental organizations. The adoption of these standards reinforces customers’ confidence in the company. The ISO 14020 standard series provides information about how to apply them and communicate them:

Strengthen links between management and sustainability

Environmental and corporate issues concern several internal management functions within a company. Preparing to tackle these issues makes it possible to reduce risks and improve performance. There are numerous options for defining your environmental strategy:

  • Manage and improve your performance systematically. The adoption of an environmental management system (EMS) allows a global approach to organizational structure, planning and resources to be mobilized for development, implementation and continuation of sustainability policies. The reference frameworks in this field are standard ISO 14001 and the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS):
  • Tackle the social and economic impact. A company’s environmental performances are directly linked to social and economic aspects. For example, this may mean the quality of work, human rights, ethics, the prevention of corruption or customer satisfaction. The economic dimension can be extended to job creation or the payment of tax. While common standards are slow to emerge, several standards have already been introduced, such as ISO 26000 on social responsibilities, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) guide regarding matters of a product's life cycle:
  • Plan a global sustainability strategy. Sustainability issues can affect the markets on which a company operates, its competition environment, the regulations in force or consumer expectations. Several tools are available to develop specific goals in environmental matters: standard ISO 26000, the United Nations Global Compact and local initiatives and organizations:

Communicate sustainability performances

Different types of actor can benefit from better understanding a company's environmental performances. Several options are available to respond to and benefit from these requirements:

  • Report pollutant releases according to national registers. All OECD countries and several other States have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) to quantify releases of hazardous chemical substances and pollutants into the environment. This is a national or regional database of pollutant releases, constituted from reports submitted by companies to the authorities. These data are then made public. Some information has to be reported. Swiss companies can obtain information by consulting the Swiss Pollutant and Transfer Register, SwissPRTR:
  • Publish a sustainability report. Publicly communicating your environmental strategy, your performances and the corresponding social and economic issues offers a certain number of advantages. This reinforces management of the company and makes it possible, for example, to provide information to investors, markets, authorities and customers but also to involve the company’s employees. Reports by suppliers and customers can also help understand their expectations and obtain the data necessary to calculate performance indicators. A developing international standard, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides tools for preparing sustainability reports:

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Last modification 10.08.2018

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