Among industry supply chains, two rather important ongoing initiatives involve expanding efforts directed at developing more sustainable products along with greater attention to social responsibility practices involving the global sourcing and production of products.

UL, also known as Underwriters Laboratories has provided a legacy of services directed at compliance and consumer trust. The firm has historically worked with multiple product brands and service providers to assure the compliance of products to known standards and the firm presents itself as a globally independent safety science company. For the past two years, UL has been working to broaden its capabilities for being a broader provider of one-stop services for material, component and product safety insights.

UL announced an expansion of that firm’s Information & Insights (I&I) service offerings directed at assisting supply chain organizations in their efforts to provide more sustainable products an ensure more timely regulatory compliance. According to our Supply Chain Matters discussion with UL spokespersons, these services leverage and expand on UL’s reputation as a known neutrality platform for assurance and safety. The stated goal is to provide the right kind of ‘preventable intelligence’ needed by product designers and product sourcing professionals.

As the announcement indicates, many products are being created with materials that may be dangerous to use, caustic to consume, poisonous for the environment or a threat to workplace safety. Recent Supply Chain Matters commentaries have called attention to products produced or assembled through socially unacceptable practices or nefarious sourcing and third party benefit. The recent filing deadline for industry supply chains to declare potential sources of Conflict Materials has been recent evidence of the difficulty in securing and tracking such information.

The newly launched UL I&I services are reportedly designed to provide supply chain teams and decision-makers with broader information insights into non-sustainable materials.  That includes access to UL’s existing network of scientists, an extensive service network for product certifications, onsite audits and trusted product evaluation and safety testing services. Material buyers can request certification documents or engage UL teams in conducting supplier audits. The goal is to help decision makers to enhance sustainability and regulatory monitoring efforts in a broader and more visible context. It has been described as a marriage of science, technology and tech platform infrastructure.

One of the recent acquisitions of UL I&I is a product service known as GoodGuide which has caught the eye of brand owners and major retailers. UL is positioning this service as a B2B platform and centralized repository for information related to the efficacy of products and good practices. According to the UL I&I web site, GoodGuide makes it easy to find safe, ethical and environmentally-friendly products and provides health, environmental and social performance ratings for more than 120,000 food, personal care and household products.

This announcement is rather interesting and adds further credence that efforts directed at assuring supply chain sustainability have broadened and technology providers such as UL are offering enhanced services to serve such needs.

Bob Ferrari