A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by GS1 UK's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from GS1 UK is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

1GS1 UK |
CEO Gary Lynch
GS1 UK has 40,000
members across Britain
Virtually every item that is traded in a shop or online,
anywhere in the world, is marked with a barcode. That
barcode is just a machine-readable version of the 13-digit
number that sits directly beneath it. That number is the Global
Trade Item Number, or GTIN, and is exclusively licensed by
one of the 114 GS1 Member Organisations located across the
world. CEO Gary Lynch tells
The Parliamentary Review
GS1 has done more to power modern-day commerce than any
You may not have heard of us, but without our work, your life would be radically
Of our 40,000 members in the UK, 70 per cent work in the retail sector. Ranging
from start-ups to centuries-old corporations, and encompassing organisations from
sole traders to multinationals, we work in concert with the whole gamut of the
British retail sector.
As a whole, we are the organisation that issues the numbers that make the global
supply chain tick, but we also develop and maintain the standards that underpin
communication in the retail world.
Over the years, our status as a non-governmental, global and neutral membership
organisation has allowed us to take a bird’s-eye view of the commercial
environment and approach the landscape without bias. We are seen as a trusted
advisor, bringing our members together to solve industry problems that they can’t
address alone.
»CEO: Gary Lynch
»Founded in 1976
»Based in the City of London
»Services: Standards and
services to support unique
identification, data capture
and information sharing
»No. of employees: 80
»GS1 is a not-for-profit
member organisation with
40,000 members, 95 per cent
of whom are SMEs
Highlighting best practice
2| GS1 UK
In just one such instance, the grocery
industry banded together because
it recognised that suppliers had to
present information in different ways
to retailers when listing their products.
The result was our co-development
How standards work
Essentially, a standard is an agreed and
defined way of doing something, born
out of experience and consultative
Standards are all around us, from
the height and width of the doors
we walk through to the size of the
shoes we wear and the brightness
of the light bulbs that illuminate our
homes. Effectively, standards provide
a baseline and a reference point
Our particular expertise is in
the communication of business
information, and the organisation
works with industry players to set the
standards around everything from the
shape and colours in which you can
print your barcodes to how to best
represent your products in a clear and
consistent way on mobile phones.
When there is a single and agreed-
upon method for dealing with a
process, then there can be a universal
way to do business. For us, the journey
began with a string of digits.
Scanning back through our
The first scan of a commercial barcode
took place in the United States in June
1974. As soon as that solitary pack
of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum
beeped across a laser checkout at the
Marsh supermarketin Troy,Ohio, the
world changed forever.
More than 45 years later,
approximately 70,000 barcodes are
scanned around the world every single
second. The barcode has become so
ubiquitous that the global supply chain
would cease to function without it.
And beneath every barcode is that
13-digit GTIN, assigned to each
individual product and carrying several
vital pieces of data, including the
unique numbers that identify both your
company and each specific product.
The GTIN can be printed as a barcode,
entered into online product catalogues
or encoded into an RFID tag. As
products can be uniquely identified at
multiple points throughout the global
supply chain, a raft of tangible benefits
comes into play for those on all sides
of the commerce equation.
A single way of identifying products
with unambiguous terms lends itself
to a simple and standardised means
of sharing information about those
products – after all, communication
is always easier when everybody is
speaking the same language.
Globally enabled scanning means
that products can be accurately
tracked and traced throughout their
journey, from manufacture to last-mile
delivery. This makes visibility of stock
and orders in transit much easier to
follow for manufacturers, retailers and
The first commercial
barcode was scanned in
Troy, Ohio in 1974
A standard is
an agreed and
defined way of
born out of
experience and
best practice
3GS1 UK |
Why are standards needed?
Success for the companies vying for
custom in our highly competitive
modern retail environment is largely
governed by three comparative nouns:
faster, cheaper and safer.
In an age of free returns, same-day
deliveries, huge market penetration
by counterfeit goods and product
recalls thanks to anything from faults
to contamination, keeping one step
ahead of the competition while
remaining compliant with regulators is
increasingly difficult.
In addition to that, a more demanding
consumer base is emerging across
an increasingly omnichannel and
borderless world.
More principled and ecologically
aware than their predecessors, and
accustomed to the breakneck speed
of 21st-century conveyance, today’s
consumers use the web-based
information at their fingertips to
make purchasing decisions motivated
by dietary, environmental and
This entire ecosystem and its
behaviours are underpinned by
data, but this is often unstructured,
unverified and outdated.
Standardised data, validated for
authenticity by brands and shareable
in an interoperable way, can make
processes more cost and time-efficient,
help avoid the need for product
recalls and furnish consumers with
the rich product information that
enables them to make more informed
Towards Retail 3.0
The rise of internet shopping giants
and the push towards blended retail
– the marriage of bricks-and-mortar
retail with high technology – are all
reliant on standardised data.
Online marketplaces like Amazon,
eBay and Google Shopping
have made inclusion of GTINs a
mandatory requirement to list across
The introduction of blockchain
for supply chain visibility and the
traceability of provenance down to
the individual ingredient level can
only be powered by standardised
data. Likewise, the introduction of
augmented reality to enhance the
physical shopping experience is
predicated on the verified attributes of
the products in question. That’s where
our service, productDNA, can help.
From the advent of the laser checkout
to a world where artificial intelligence
and smart stores will become the
norm, we will be there to help
organisations uniquely identify and
track anything they trade, increasing
confidence in data for everyone,
everywhere, every day.
The barcode
has become
so ubiquitous
that the global
supply chain
would cease
to function
without it
Retail 3.0 will
significantly change
consumer activity

This article was sponsored by GS1 UK. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster