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SMART Report Summary

Project ID: 693642
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMART (Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade (SMART) responds to the grand challenge of our time: how to secure the social foundation for people everywhere now and in the future, while staying within planetary boundaries. Achieving a safe and just operating space for humanity, which is crucial for society, requires the contribution of what we in SMART call market actors. By that we mean businesses, investors, consumers, and the public sector in its many roles as market actor, including as portfolio investor, controlling shareholder and as public procurer.

SMART aims to significantly advance the understanding of how non-development policies and regulations directed at private, public and hybrid market actors contribute to or undermine development policies. With a focus especially on global value chains of products sold in Europe, SMART analyses the regulatory complexity within which European market actors operate

The overarching objective of SMART is to do research that will serve to promote global, sustainable development within a circular, zero-emission economy compatible with the planetary boundaries and in line with the international development goals. We define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present while safeguarding Earth’s life-support system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The preliminary findings of SMART are that no one issue – whether it is climate change, ocean acidification, or biodiversity loss – can be managed in isolation. The inclusion of the planetary boundaries research is an attempt to capture this multi-scale, multi-system complexity, identifying essential planetary processes that govern the very basis of our existence. The key scientific challenge remains to explore whether and under which conditions the twin objectives of achieving world development aspirations on a stable and resilient planet are possible in the Anthropocene.
With this starting point, SMART's overall methodology is integrated, interdisciplinary, and systemic in its approach, integrating legal, economic, and sociological approaches to the factors that enable or hinders market actors from making sustainable decisions.

In its first year, SMART has started up its work with a systemic and thoughtfully structured and coordinated mapping and analysis of the regulatory complexity for private, public and hybrid market actors, on the international, EU and jurisdiction-specific level. The aim is to identify the barriers for sustainable market actors, including gaps and incoherencies in the regulatory framework, as well as the possibilities and best practices that should be enhanced. Through research and stakeholder communication and engagement, identification of environmental and social hotspots in the global life-cycles of specific products (two items of clothing and two mobile phones) is also underway. Sustainability Assessment Guidelines are being compiled for businesses wishing to integrate environmental and social impacts as well as good governance. This work encompasses a broadening of the definition of the Circular Economy to include the full cycle and all aspects of products and processes. It also involves an extensive mapping of and engagement with stakeholders.

This work will form the basis for developing reform proposals for EU policy-makers on how to achieve greater policy coherence for sustainable development, as well as communicating to market actors how best practice can be strengthened and unsustainable practices discontinued.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The systemic, comprehensive analysis that SMART is working towards, is expected to provide insights beyond state of the art. This is expected to contribute to facilitating the necessary discourse within and beyond academia on how to meet the grand challenge of our time.

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