(Note pour les francophones: essentiellement, je partage ici des informations sur le système GS1 et le potentiel d'améliorer l'information qu'il fournit, notamment pour les qualités écologiques, sociales et de provenance. J'aimerais savoir si vous voyez également du potentiel avec le développement du sytème, est-ce que c'est utile dans votre travail, si vous y trouvez des difficultés (accès, coût, facilité d'usage). Je suis prête à traduit l'information ou bien faire une rencontre téléphonique si vous voulez en parler!

Hi everyone,

I had a fruitful meeting recently with Patricia Crilly, a senior director at GS1 Canada (along with Donna Bottrell from Compass) to better understand their service and its potential for improving the ordering and tracking of sustainable local food to food service, and try to nudge it in that direction. I learned a few things that I wanted to pass on to you all.

 I also wanted to let you know that I was having these conversations (we committed to checking in again as work progresses) so that if you hear of issues, concerns or need for improvement with GS1 in your own work or with supply chain partners, you could share them with me – it would help me to better understand the situation on the ground and hopefully influence it, or help you to influence it. I definitely still have only a limited understanding of this techy system, so anything you can do to add to it would be great! My feeling at this point is that if GS1 is relatively accessible (price-wise), with an easily used way to include sustainability and provenance attributes, and with broad coverage, that it could be very helpful to everyone trying to increase local/sustainable food in this system– and it’s something worth pushing for improvements to. But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

·        It seems that in the GS1 data system (ECC Network), there are mandatory and optional fields, and in both cases there are also ‘fixed  choices’ and ‘free form fields’. While there are some sustainability criteria (fair trade, organic, nutritional information) which are named in the fixed choices for manufacturers to select, there is many attributes which are not named (sustainable seafood options and certifications, free-range, recycling codes for packaging etc). This means that if a manufacturer doesn’t know that an attribute would be important for a buyer to know about, they won’t have any trigger or easy way to put it in. There also seems to be limited granularity in the information about provenance (for example, manufacturers are asked to list where the company is headquartered but not where the food is grown or processed).  I will hopefully be getting more information about exact fields for both sustainable and local.

·        As we know, GS1 is a non-profit organization. There are various committees in which GS1 members can participate to inform how GS1 gets structured and developed, including the ‘attribute working group’. While participation is by invitation, this seems like an important place to have people who want to help the system become more adapted to informing local and sustainable choices…FYI if you know any GS1 members who might have the time or inclination to participate.

·        One of my concerns was the accessibility of GS1 to smaller players (small manufacturers, hubs, NGOs, universities…). The prices are according to the number of codes and products registered, and are up on their website  --  to my uninformed eye they seem relatively accessible, but I would be happy to hear any thoughts on that.  There is also the potential for non-industry players to become members (it seems that Dieticians of Canada was previously a member) – I am getting more information about that.

·        For regional hubs and manufacturers, I had also heard that it could be difficult to get hooked up to the information (for example, a hub that needed to contact each manufacturer to ask for permission to see its information) . It seems that if manufacturers with (SCC or UPC) codes tell the system to ‘publish it to all trading partners’, any other GS1 member should be able to see the information. I am not sure why anyone wouldn’t want to make it all visible – still a question.  There is no pricing information in the general GS1 system, although there is some kind of add-on private system to include pricing, that companies can pay for separately.

·        They are working on integrating GS1 with other systems (such as ordering systems), such as having ingredients connected to order guides. There will be a step forward in this work in the coming months, but I didn’t get the details.

·        One question I still have is what the current coverage of GS1 is – I know that Compass is requiring all their new suppliers to have GS1 codes, and that GS1 considers it has reached a ‘critical mass’ with the majority of manufacturers engaged. 

All for now, looking forward to hearing any thoughts or questions.





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