What did we learn from Assent Evolve 2023?

After the groundbreaking Assent Evolve 2023 conference, what were the key takeaways and hot topics?

The two day event covered a wide range of topics, and many of the sessions are available to watch back on demand.  Over the two days, industry professionals from across the world engaged in panel discussions, keynote events and targeted learning sessions. The aim of the event was not just to discuss and inform, but to make sure delegates left with actionable knowledge they would be able to use to address regulatory challenges.  

PFAS risk and regulations

The issue of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances or ‘forever chemicals’ is dominating supply chain sustainability professionals' list of concerns.  The man-made chemicals have been used widely in consumer and industrial products thanks to properties like water resistance, head resistance, and non-stick properties.  They do not break down easily in the environment, and research continues into potential health concerns.  There were several key PFAS sessions at Evolve including overcoming PFAS risks, staying ahead of global regulatory trends, and getting ahead in a disrupted world.  

Key quote 

“All of these requirements really point to the fact that if you haven't already thought about how you are documenting and maintaining compliance information in a very consistent and repeatable and demonstrable way, this could become a risk for you being able to get your products to market.  More and more stakeholders have their eyes on this information, they want this information from you, and the digitisation of this information just makes it that much easier for them to ask for it.”   Cally Edgren, Director, Sustainability Assent

Key video to watch on-demand:  Securing Your Market Access: Staying Ahead of Global Regulatory Trends

Securing Your Market Access: Staying Ahead of Global Regulatory Trends

PFAS human impact and sustainability

The issue of PFAS was approached from various perspectives during Evolve 2023, including in a presentation by Robert Bilott, and the opening keynote address from Erin Brockovich.  The iconic environmental activist inspired the audience with her story that began with uncovering a 30-year-long history of groundwater poisoning in Hinkley, CA by PG&E, and her unwavering commitment to bring justice to the victims.

Key Quote:

“We collaborated and created a partnership built on the idea of leveraging each other's strengths, resources, insights, to achieve a great impact that would not be possible alone.  As we as people work together to leverage each other's strengths it can lead to a more efficient use of resources and it can create a great sense of shared purpose.  Individuals can often achieve more by doing it together than doing it alone.  This is a positive and respectful way of achieving success at work and personally.” Erin Brockovich, Environmental Activist. 

Key video to watch on-demand: 

Maximising Supply Chain Success in a Changing Regulatory Environment with Erin Brockovich

Keynote - Maximizing Supply Chain Success in a Changing Regulatory Environment with Erin Brockovich

Who can you learn from in supply chain sustainability? 

A fireside chat between Patrick Hallan, Product Chemical Compliance Manager, at Doosan Bobcat and Cally Edgren, Director of Sustainability at Assent explored how to build a successful product compliance program at a global, complex manufacturer and how to gain stakeholder buy-in for it.  

Key Quote:

“For the first time in our industry we’re having to worry about where the raw materials come from? What labour was used? What does the supply chain look like?  It just continues to grow.  The accountability we have, how did our suppliers come about creating components?  What happens after the end of life?  Now who is going to deal with these products and how will they get recycled? It’s a whole new world of accountability.”  Patrick Hallan, Product Chemical Compliance Manager, at Doosan Bobcat

Key video to watch on-demand:

A Global Manufacturer’s Perspective: Establishing Your Compliance Program

A Global Manufacturer’s Perspective: Establishing Your Compliance Program

Managing regulations and risks 

A key discussion topic of the event surrounded procurement operations finding smart ways to manage evolving regulations and risks, and how technology can be the key to that solution.  A key conversation surrounded overcoming PFAS of ‘forever chemical’ risks, and explored the link between sustainability and PFAS and provided a first look at Assent’s enhanced offering to increase visibility to meet critical PFAS requirements.

Key Quote:

“From a risk and product compliance perspective, the pressure is real, and the concern is real from a compliance perspective on it.  In fact, today I was reading an article and it was talking about the new frontier of product liability and litigation, and it was because of PFAS.  So it's really on the mind of organisations, and on the minds of risk managers.”  Bill Pennington, VP Research, EHS and Risk, Verdantix  

Key video to watch on-demand:

Overcoming PFAS Risks: How to Manage Your Requirements

Overcoming PFAS Risks: How to Manage Your Requirements

The impact of mining on local communities

The issue of mining and keeping conflict minerals out of supply chains was a key fireside chat discussion point. Conflict minerals are minerals sourced from regions involved in armed conflict, and common ones include tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold.  The exploitation of these minerals has been linked to funding armed groups, which can extend conflicts and human rights abuses.  Assent experts explored the complex issues surrounding responsible mineral mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  There was also a short documentary about Assent expert Jamie Wallisch’s first hand experience at artistinal-scale mines in the  DRC, providing a detailed look at the impact of mining on local communities and serving as a reminder of the importance of responsible sourcing practices.

Key Quote:

“We can create meaningful change for those people by putting in place conditions under which they are safe.  And the truth is that if we don’t take these steps market demand is not going to stop.  The people currently purchasing cobalt, and that have been purchasing for the last 10 years are not asking how it was produced, they’re not making the investments necessary to improve things, so it’s up to the people who care to take that responsibility and to put those conditions in place to safeguard people on the ground.”  David Sturmes, Director Business Innovation and Fundraising, Fair Cobalt Alliance

Key video to watch on-demand:

Fireside Chat - Beyond Conflict Minerals: How Mining Impacts Local Communities

Watch all the key keynotes and fireside discussions back here on demand.


Fireside Chat - Beyond Conflict Minerals: How Mining Impacts Local Communities

One of the key event voices was Cally Edgren, Director, Sustainability at Assent, and has shared her views with Procurement Magazine on the key moments of the event.

What was the stand out moment from the event for you? 

For me, it was the ability to hear from our outstanding guest speakers. I am heavily engaged in tracking regulatory and litigation activities around PFAS chemicals, so for me the chance to interview Robert Bilott was an amazing opportunity -- his thoughts on this important topic were extremely insightful.

What reaction have you had from attendees and speakers?  

Attendees that I've spoken to have been extremely positive. What's interesting is that everyone seems to have a different favourite session from the conference. This further supports that our team did a great job of including topics across a wide range of interests.

What was the mission for the event - and do you feel that was achieved? 

The mission of the event is to lead conversations and learning across the spectrum of supply chain sustainability. I think it was definitely achieved as we offered a wide variety of sessions, speakers, conversation break-outs, and other opportunities to engage in a unique setting.

Was there anything that surprised you from the conversations?  

I wouldn't necessarily say I was "surprised", but it never fails to impress me that every company is on their own journey for compliance and sustainability - some are very mature and have been doing this for years, while others are just starting out and still learning what the acronyms stand for! What I enjoyed about the event is that Assent ensures that there are topics and speakers of interest to everyone no matter how mature their programs are today. We always want to make sure everyone feels their time was well spent and that they came away with some new information about regulations and business risk, best practice suggestions, insights from world-renowned speakers, and ideas to continue developing their own company's journey.


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