Move on over, CSR and LCAs

Tone Skårdal Tobiasson
Posted on
Tuesday, 6 May 2014

So you think you’ve got your back covered with your CSR and LCA lingo – but you may have to look up some new acronyms. NCA and EP&L may be the newest flavors – which seem tasty also for Nordic authorities.

The day ahead of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the Sustainable Fashion Academy held a symposium on Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) for policy makers, organizations, designers and other interested parties. NCAis essentially a way to value the finite stock of natural assets (air, water and land) provided free of charge by nature, which are used by a range of industries to provide consumer goods and services. Representatives from the Swedish and Danish EPA were intrigued.

It was Kering’s Michael Beutler who informed the participants how a project starting with Puma’s Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) accounting which now will become the standard for the whole group. “By 2016 all companies in the Kering family will be doing EP&L,” he announced. This means that companies like Gucci and Stella McCartney soon will be show-casing how their production can affect ecosystems and natural capital consumption.

Kering is not the only stakeholder using this system, as Ben Ramsden from Pants To Poverty, Dorothy Maxwell from Natural Capital Coalition and even Claus Torp, from the Danish EPA, presented their projects in the area – the latter in cooperation with IC Company – the Danish fashion giant. Later, at a glittering gala, Kering was awarded the prestigious the GLASA (Global Leadership Award in Sustainable Apparel) for their pioneering work in this field by Sweden’s Minister of Trade, Ewa Björling.

Eager discussions filled the afternoon in the old Stock Exchange in Copenhagen. “One of the main challenges facing NCA is agreeing on data and weighting,” explained Sarah Nolleth, from Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability Project. Jason Kibbey from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition suggested that NAC should build on already existing initiatives like the Higg Index. But perhaps the biggest news was the participation of key people from the Swedish and Danish EPAs. “Even if NCA is at the level where carbon-accounting was ten years ago, this could quickly become mainstream, especially if policymakers are interested,” was echoed by several participants.

Potentials for improving NCA were identified during the afternoon group sessions; lack of focus on the consumer-phase and the opportunity to look at local production as part of the evaluation. “It has to be simpler for SMEs,” was also a concrete suggestion, and Kering promised to come up with simpler systems. How authorities could use different policy tools was a hot topic. Natural Capital Coalition asked for volunteers to try out the NCA tools they are developing, and Swedish FilippaK committed to being a guinea pig.

Countries mentioned that are already adopting NCA are the UK, Canada, Australia and Denmark. Nordic Council of Ministers are interested in the concept, as they are looking into a possible Roadplan for the textile and apparel sector in the Nordic region. Throwing public procurement into the mix, could make quite a difference also on uptake.  However, how the consumers easily can grasp this new way of measuring environmental impact and costing – is another matter entirely. In the mean time, CSR and LCA are becoming “so last season”.