At A Glance – Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 

Your waste, your responsibility

In July 2017, the Chinese government stated that it would no longer accept plastic waste imports. Suddenly, countries across the world were forced to recognise the extent of their plastic problem, and consequently put pressure on organisations to handle their own waste. From April 2022, for example, companies in the UK will be under a legal obligation to make sure that 30 per cent of the materials used for their packaging come from a recycled source.

Encouraging businesses to take charge of their own waste streams is part of a wider shift towards extended producer responsibility (EPR). In other words, organisations should be held accountable for the effect that they have on wider society. EPR isn’t just about plastic waste – it’s about understanding and improving supply chains to actively reduce negative impact. This could involve carrying out due diligence on any partner or supplier, and only working with organisations that hold themselves to high ethical standards.

EPR is largely concerned with environmental and ethical issues, and can help companies to maintain a positive brand identity. It is also a mark of corporate maturity. Ensuring that supply chains operate in a benevolent, beneficial way requires a sound knowledge of the entire process of sourcing, designing, manufacturing, and delivering products and services. One of the disruptive technologies that has been used to improve supply chain management (SCM) and visibility is blockchain, where each stage of the product journey can be monitored and recorded, with inter-supply chain relationships secured via smart contracts.

Following mass sustainability strategies, EPR has become all the more important. Companies are now expected to track the movement of resources from cradle to grave and, following new legal obligations, to develop circular models that consider end of life scenarios. As supply chains transition from linear to cyclic, it’s up to organisations to tie up their own loose ends.

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