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Circular Economy & Sustainability

Businesses and authorities around the world are increasingly working together to ensure that more sustainable economic, environmental and social measures are adopted and implemented. The circular economy model, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurnishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible—is a key pillar of sustainability.

GS1 standards enable the “digital twin” transformation which is essential in sustainability and circular economy models.

GS1 Standards supporting sustainability

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership. Through its global open standards, GS1 is supporting these goals in innovative ways, in different sectors and in various regions.

GS1 standards enable organisations to identify, capture and share product information smoothly, creating a common language that underpins systems and business processes all over the world. This common business language enables transparency and traceability in the supply chain which allows organisations to grow efficiently, sustainably and safely—helping transform the way we work and live in an environment of decreasing resources.

Consumers, businesses, and governments want reliable information about the sustainability of their products and services. Product packaging, the provenance of raw materials and the identification of chemical substances are particularly important issues. GS1 provides a common set of standards to share sustainability information widely, both for B2B and B2C purposes. Our standards can also support green procurement in both the public and private sectors.

GS1 EPCIS standard is ideal for establishing an effective chain of custody of non-renewable resources as well as for proving the provenance of sustainable sources of raw materials for the food, textiles and construction sectors, amongst many others.

GS1 is also supporting initiatives to reduce food loss and waste at both national and regional levels by participating, for example, in the EU REFRESH project which was funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union.

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GS1 standards enabling the European Union circular economy plan

The European Commission adopted the new circular economy plan in March 2020.

Together with the new EU industrial strategy, the circular economy plan addresses the twin challenge of the green industrial transformation based on the principle that Europe should leverage the potential of the digital revolution.

The new circular economy plan will help “modernise the EU’s economy and stimulate the development of lead markets” for climate neutral and circular products. The plan includes a ‘sustainable products’ policy to support the circular design of all products based on a common methodology and principles. It will prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them.

At GS1, we believe that a sustainable circular economy change at a large scale is only possible if data is structured and shared through global and open standards.

GS1 standards supporting product authentication systems are based on a collective approach, involving all actors in the supply chain setting together the rules to identify, capture and share data. Our standards are industry-driven and this is crucial as there is no real circular economy change without empowerment of the economic players who generate, use and exchange product data. The consumer will gain access to trusted product information based on more transparency and structured exchanges among all partners along the chain.

Our paper Circular Data for the Circular Economy has been featured on the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform of the European Commission.

As authorities around the world start developing circular economy initiatives, GS1 stands ready to support them.

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