Standards are technical specifications or other precise criteria used consistently as a rule, guideline, or definition. These Standards as minimal requirements are key to achieving the SDGs. Here is why.
On World Standards Day, Standards are key to achieve the SDGs
Energy, food insecurity, economic uncertainty: our world is tangled in many interlocking crises. The magnitude of these challenges calls on us – institutions, businesses and individuals – to identify solutions to build back better together.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, offers a way forward. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): they represent a call for action to address social imbalances, develop a sustainable economy, and fight climate change. Each goal of the SDGs – and their corresponding targets – supports a specific dimension of the effort needed and point to a global commitment that is now more relevant than ever.
CEN and CENELEC, as two of the official European Standardization Organizations (ESOs), are aware of the importance to leverage all available tools to achieve the SDGs. We believe that, in this effort, standards can play a key role.
In this spirit, this 14 October, like every year, CEN and CENELEC join the international standardization community in celebrating World Standards Day. This year’s edition, under the motto “Shared visions for a better world”, showcases the many ways in which international standards can contribute to sustainability.
As the recovery from the Covid pandemic shows, voluntary, consensus-based standards facilitate the translation of ambitions into concrete actions: they offer shared and clear rules of behaviour which foster the dissemination of best practices and the circulation of innovations.
As CEN and CENELEC, our commitment to making standardization a lever for sustainable development is twofold. First, in our role as ESOs, our purpose is to strengthen the Single Market. Thanks to the well-functioning public-private partnership recently renewed through the new European Standardization Strategy, CEN and CENELEC support the EU’s initiatives – including the ones linked to the SDGs: the EU Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, and the EU’s Digital Strategy, to name only a few.
On the other hand, we understand that, as Europeans, we are part of a bigger global ecosystem. Therefore, our engagement is – primarily – global. With our strong commitment towards our international partners (ISO and IEC), together with our national members we aim to ensure that Europe leads in the development and application of standardization solutions that respond to global challenges.
Our commitment to sustainable development is reflected in the key place it holds in our CEN and CENELEC Strategy 2030, where as part of its priorities we pledge for “International standardization to be a lever for sustainable development”. This strategic document will guide our work until 2030. The objective is to ensure we are fit for the future and contribute to building a more sustainable and resilient Europe.
These are not just lofty ambitions. Through the work done by many experts across different Technical Committees (TCs), CEN and CENELEC develop European Standards that contribute to the three pillars of economic, environmental and societal sustainability. Some examples:
SDG 5 Gender equality. CEN and CENELEC signed in 2019 the UNECE declaration on Gender Responsive Standards, pledging to adopt a gender-aware approach to standardization, and established an ambitious implementation plan that is reviewed on an annual basis.
SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy. Many existing standards on energy management can be used as tools to help businesses gradually improve their performance and the energy efficiency of their products. For instance, in the field of Ecodesign and Energy Labelling, 25 CEN and CENELEC TCs produce European Standards on methods for measuring the energy performance of various energy-related products against the values set by the European legislation.
Another relevant area for the energy transition is transports. Standards help reduce the amount of energy used in the sector and shift to sustainable fuels. Existing standards cover means of transport (such as railways, with a total of more than 1200 standards on everything from rolling stock to electric circuits in train), tools to monitor emissions in vehicles, or Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in urban areas. Such standards are often used by manufacturers, public authorities and regulatory bodies to implement their ambitious sustainability plans.
SDG 13 Climate action. CEN and CENELEC have adopted a horizontal approach to environmental protection, embedding it across all their actions. Some examples of this approach: the recently inaugurated CEN TC 467 ‘Climate Change’ develops standards to mitigate and adapt to climate change, while CENELEC’s 111x ‘Environment’ focuses on reducing the negative impact of electrical and electronic products on the natural environment.
The ones above are just some examples. Many more exist in other sectors, and their potential to support sustainability plans all across the board is huge.
To provide some evidence on this potential, last May CEN and CENELEC presented a new dedicated webpage: “Standards for the SDGs”. This online tool provides a comprehensive and clear mapping of the standards that contribute significantly to the SDGs in the European context.
At the moment, the website accounts for 4783 deliverables, with more expected to be added in the coming months. The objective of the project is to develop a strategic approach to SDGs leading to the inclusion of sustainability considerations in standardization.
The global challenges we all face are complex and require collective effort. SDGs show the way forward. On World Standards’ Day 2022, and together with many other organizations around Europe and the world, CEN and CENELEC are happy to renew their commitment to leveraging the power of European standards in building a sustainable future for everyone.
What Business Leaders Need To Know About Sustainable Technology
As the world progresses, new technologies have the potential to help us move closer to a sustainable future. But what do business leaders need to know about these technologies. After all, they need to make informed decisions about incorporating them into their operations and strategies.
As sustainable technology becomes more prevalent, leaders need to be informed about the options available and how they can be incorporated into their operations. “We need to tie sustainability to economic outcomes and put a dollar value on the high-impact actions a company takes to sustainable solutions”, said Terence Mauri, MIT Entrepreneur Mentor in Residence, in an email. “CEOs and boards must have moral and business imperatives to care about long-term. The opportunity lies in business leaders and investors being able to tie sustainability data directly to economic conditions”.
Mauri believes that companies are beginning to see the importance of sustainable technology and are working to develop more sustainable practices. He may be right. IBM has developed a system to help farmers use less water and fertilizer while maintaining crop yields. Other companies are working on developing sustainable packaging. For example, Nestle Waters North America has developed a paper-based water bottle that is fully recyclable and uses significantly less energy to produce than traditional plastic bottles. Meanwhile, Amazon has pledged to be “net zero carbon” by 2040 and 100% renewable by 2030. And Goldman Sachs has committed to investing $750 billion in sustainable businesses by 2030.
“Many sustainable solutions such as these require investment and may have a higher upfront cost, but they often provide long-term benefits like saved energy costs or improved employee productivity,” said Huda Khan from the University of Aberdeen and Richard Lee from the University of South Australia, in an email. Khan recently conducted research explaining why firms should pursue green technological innovation — it leads to improved environmental outcomes and business performance. This assertion is shared by Nadia Zahoor from the Queen Mary University of London and Zaheer Khan from the University of Aberdeen, who said in an interview that “businesses should consider sustainability as part of a “strategic opportunity” rather than purely from a compliance perspective.” Zahoor’s research findings suggest that business collaborations offer environmental learning conducive to identifying and exploiting ecological threats and opportunities for environmental innovation. Based on a second study, both researchers also contend that sustainability is a complex issue, but it is one that business leaders need to start taking seriously. Here’s how.
Account for The Hidden Cost of New Technology
The first step in creating a sustainable development plan for your company is taking stock of where you’re. Measuring your sustainability can come from metrics like carbon footprint, energy consumption, and supply chain miles. “If you want to measure your future sustainability, it’s also essential to look at the impact of new technologies you’re using,” said Emma Collins, the CEO and co-founder of Safetradebinaryoptions, in an email. Many new technologies have hidden costs that are often left out of sustainability calculations. For example, AI is a technology that has created immense value for businesses, whether it’s driving personalized product recommendations or informing anti-money laundering software. However, AI systems need to process an immense amount of data, requiring a company to increase its energy use.
In addition, other technologies that can help companies increase the efficiency and quality of their products, such as blockchain, can harm a carbon footprint. Even technologies created to improve sustainability can have hidden costs. For example, producing solar panels requires substantial water and energy. And although electric vehicles have lower emissions than traditional gas cars, the manufacturing process for batteries can be quite polluting. When considering new technologies, it’s essential to view the product’s entire life cycle, from production to disposal. This will give you a more accurate picture of the sustainability of the technology and help you make better decisions about which technologies to pursue.
Use Technology to Increase Your Sustainability
Once you can measure and understand the impact new technologies have on your sustainability goals, you can look for opportunities to use new technologies sustainably. If you’re partnering with other companies to develop energy-heavy technologies like AI or blockchain, look carefully to ensure you’re partnering with companies that prioritize sustainability. For example, Google is developing technology to maximize energy efficiency and reduce waste and has developed an AI system that can predict failures in data centre cooling systems, which account for a significant amount of energy use. And they’re not the only ones — many tech companies are now incorporating sustainability into their product development cycles. In other words, companies cannot simply purchase the latest sustainable technology and expect it to achieve their sustainability goals. Instead, they need to be thoughtful about how they use technology and ensure that it is integrated into their overall sustainability strategy.
Look at the Big Picture
Sustainability is about more than just technology. To be sustainable, companies must look at the big picture and understand how their actions fit into the larger world. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. One popular method is sustainability reporting, which allows companies to measure and track their progress on specific sustainability goals. This information can help companies decide where to focus their efforts and how to use their resources best.
Sustainability reporting can also help companies tell their sustainability story to the public, which is an integral part of promoting sustainable business practices. After all, if consumers and investors don’t know that a company is working towards sustainability, they won’t be as likely to support its efforts. There are many different types of sustainability reporting, but one of the most popular is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. These guidelines provide a framework for companies to report environmental, social, and economic impacts. In addition, many companies use these guidelines to produce annual sustainability reports, which they then make available to the public. The GRI guidelines are just one example of the many resources available to companies that want to improve their sustainability reporting. Several software programs and online tools can also help with this process. No matter what type of sustainability reporting a company chooses to use, the important thing is that they are taking action and working towards their goals.
Ultimately, technology is just one piece of the puzzle regarding sustainability, but it’s essential. Companies can significantly impact the world by using technology to increase efficiency and reduce waste. In this way, technology can be a powerful tool for promoting sustainability on a global scale. And as more and more companies adopt sustainable practices, we will all benefit from a cleaner, healthier planet.
All MENA countries, derived from the XIX and early XX centuries, acquired this capability when policing their citizens, identifying any person protesting their government without due process. The same applies to interstate relations where transboundary resources and interests of any kind envenom and more often inflame situations. So, at this conjecture, is it not the opportune time to at least try unlocking a Peace Ministry in the Middle East?
Unlocking Peace Ministry in the Middle East: Announcing the Middle East Consultation 2022
Everything is affected whenever peace is missing. Absolutely everything! Conflict has a way of harming all areas of the human experience. We all know too well the pain and confusion undermining peace throughout our nations, our communities, and our own souls in regrettable ways. It disorients and forces us to grapple with the seemingly overwhelming gravity of sin and the depth of its consequences. For this reason, God really, really cares about peace.
Seeking peace is essential to God’s story for humanity. Scripture demonstrates the extent to which conflict infects a fallen world while also declaring the length God goes for the sake of peace. This didn’t happen without sacrifice; Jesus Christ endured the extreme weight of conflict as he hung on the cross. And it was on this journey to the cross that he shared eternal words with his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is a perplexing type of comfort. Jesus is perfectly aware that our hearts will face trouble and fear in an uncertain world, but he assures us that the only kind of peace that can suffice is an otherworldly peace. Because of this, we have hope amid the storms of strife.
It can feel like the Middle East invents ever creative ways to undermine peace as people across the region deal with struggling societies, mounting insecurities, dirty politics, violent factionalism, destructive ideologies, and wave after wave of crisis. The problems fill headlines and reports throughout ceaseless cycles of bad news. Residents struggle through chronic frustration and disillusion, and growing numbers are joining a migration outflow seeking better fortunes in new locations.
Christ followers across the Middle East face their own flavors of conflict. Egypt encounters layers of challenges as churches and Christian groups serve amid rapidly changing times. In Algeria churches struggle to forge faith communities against the grain of a suppressive government. Christians of Iraq continue to navigate decades-long strife while trying to nurture one another and serve their neighbors. In Palestine, occupation and oppression hinder the most basic areas of human life and fuel hardships of many kinds. Sudan’s believers are dealing with rapidly changing political situations after years of regime change and upheaval. And in Lebanon, new layers of crisis pile upon old, unresolved conflicts to destabilize a state and its people. Unfortunately, these are only brief samples of the range of conflict raging across the region. It can all seem so overwhelming, and in the darkest moments cries go out, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1).
Though it doesn’t come easily, we must insist on recognizing the profound ways God’s people can and do faithfully minister peace amid challenging situations. Churches, organizations, and individuals of faith are ready vessels for extending Christ’s peace; they possess the potential by the Spirit to alter situations and write new stories for people and places. Is this not what it means to take hold of the peace that Christ leaves? This among the many questions the Middle East Consultation 2022 aims to ask on September 21-23 during Peace I Leave with You: Theories and Practices for Peace Ministry in the Middle East.
Practicing effective peace ministry requires us to imagine peace in ways that conform our thoughts and attitudes to the person of Christ in service of others. Biblically, peace ministry can be understood as the work of unlocking human potential by moving people, communities, and nations into healthier dynamics of shared life. Such outreach proceeds from deep convictions that the gospel is a holistic response to any situation where sin inflicts strife, oppression, hatred, and mistrust- everything antithetical to the restorative work of God.
Paradigms for peace ministry can help us recognize how peace involves multidimensional expressions (peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding) working across levels of the human experience, including the personal, group, and national. The following grid, which MEC 2022 will adopt as a basic working framework, helps conceptualize this dynamic:
Such a framework is helpful, but it certainly cannot convey the complexity of engaging conflict. There are no simple explanations or quick solutions to the problems plaguing the Middle East. Each unique context in the region carries assorted variables that require us to ask a proper set of questions. Worldly logic may say peace is an elusive dream or unattainable ideal, but authentic faith in Christ compels us to take hold of the gospel’s promises of peace as we seek to discover how God is active and alive in the world. Our eschatological hope for the future moves us to action as we relish the words of Isaiah 9:7: There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.
God is working through conflict for redemptive purposes, and everyone has a role to play in this. This means embracing the invitation to partner with God in living out Christ-honoring works of peace and continually exploring new ways to think about the theories and practices of peace ministry.
Investments adhering to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are capturing increasing interest in the Middle East. A 2020 survey carried out by multinational bank HSBC revealed that 41% of regional investors wished to adopt an effective ESG investment policy. A May 2022 PWC report confirmed this trend, adding that Middle Eastern companies’ top three sustainability priorities are diversity and equality, climate change and safety.
The region has long lagged in ESG investments. For example, in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, an economic model highly reliant on non-renewable energy exports has limited interest in ESG practices, especially environmental ones. However, in recent years, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been leading the way in matters of sustainable development, devising national plans to overcome hydrocarbons dependence, increase the share of renewable resources in their energy mix and boost the private sector.
Alena Dique is the founder of ESG Insights Middle East, a regional ESG databank. She told Al-Monitor, “ESG investments in the Middle East have boomed since the pandemic, and this trend will probably remain popular until 2030. Social investing is largely pushed forward by investors who want long-lasting, sustainable contributions left behind as their legacy. At the same time, environmental investments present a huge opportunity for the Middle East, especially with the region hosting both COP27 and 28. However, there is still a long way to go regarding the governance aspect, even though the Middle East is no stranger to responsible investing, ethical practices or sharia-compliant strategies.”
In addition to the ethical aspects, many Middle Eastern investors consider sustainable assets attractive from an economic perspective. A recent GIB asset management report highlights that ESG-compliant investments generally have higher long-term profits. “This is difficult to evaluate as ESG is both qualitative and quantitative. We need to look at how investors choose to assess ESG risk and what areas they look to emphasize. ESG rating might not evaluate all companies the same way or give a true depiction of return on investment all the time. Still, there is no denying that sustainability evaluation exists and can impact the flow of investments,” Dique added.
The increasing interest in ESGs — both at the private and the government levels — has also introduced changes in Middle Eastern business practices. “In the region, ESG strategy has been embraced as a mechanism to drive companies to demonstrate their sustainability credentials alongside their global peers,” said Dique. “New trends, such as creating ESG positions or adopting green policies, show a growing interest in sustainability issues. Regional governments are hands-on with the transition of energy and natural resources, human capital and economic development and now have taken ESG on board too. Change is challenging, but transition takes time — and that can be monitored and measured.”
The Dubai Investment Fund, one of the largest independent investment funds worldwide in terms of assets under management, recently announced the creation of an ESG investment department aiming to track the local and global market and discover the most profitable sustainability assets. ESGs are also gaining momentum in other corners of the GCC, such as Kuwait. In recent months, the National Bank of Kuwait adopted a sustainable financing framework to support the national plan to tackle climate change and integrate ESG standards in all the bank’s operations.
Despite the growing enthusiasm, finance experts argue that ESG funds worldwide have a poor track record in financial performance. Corporate executives should naturally pay attention to employee, community and environmental concerns, but setting ESG targets on this basis may distort the decision-making process and force managers to focus on sustainability issues beyond their relevance for long-term shareholders’ interests.
Even from a regional perspective, some investors are still skeptical about the potential of ESGs. “The Gulf was rather late adopting ESG initiatives, which isn’t necessarily bad, as it is a rather ambiguous and subjective term. The current energy crisis demonstrates what can happen when an initially reasonable idea is taken too far. In this case, the overall shortfall in hydrocarbon capital expenditure can become counterproductive in the long run,” said Ali Al-Salim, Co-Founder at Arkan Partners, an independent investment consulting firm based in the Gulf.
Experts and entrepreneurs also criticize ESG investment because of the lack of clear measures to define what is sustainable and what is not. They claim that ESGs have an ambiguous — and problematic — definition leading to various regulatory approaches in different jurisdictions, which means that there is no standard legal framework to deal with them. “A dose of common sense and a holistic approach to ESG investing — thinking about unintended consequences — is critical for regional investors to consider,” Al-Salim concluded.
Would Sustainability in the manufacturing sector help reduce the environmental impact of the industry, or as put by Nabil Nasr of Rochester Institute of Technology, who below talks about how Sustainability helps reduce the environmental impact of the industry.
How sustainable manufacturing could help reduce the environmental impact of industry
Nabil Nasr is the associate provost and director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology. He is also the CEO of the Remade Institute, which was established by the U.S. government to conduct early-stage R&D to accelerate the transition to circular economy, which is a sustainable industrial model for improved resource efficiency and decreased systemic energy, emissions and waste generation. Below are highlights from an interview with The Conversation. Here, Nasr explains some of the ideas behind sustainable manufacturing and why they matter. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How would you explain sustainable manufacturing? What does the average person not know or understand about sustainable manufacturing?
When we talk about sustainable manufacturing, we mean cleaner and more efficient systems with less resource consumption, less waste and emissions. It is to simply minimize any negative impact on the environment while we are still meeting demand, but in much more efficient and sustainable ways. One example of sustainable manufacturing is an automotive factory carrying out its production capacity with 10% of its typical emission due to advanced and efficient processing technology, reducing its production waste to near zero by figuring out how to switch its shipping containers of supplied parts from single use to reusable ones, accept more recycled materials in production, and through innovation make their products more efficient and last longer.
Sustainability is about the proper balance in a system. In our industrial system, it means we are taking into account the impact of what we do and also making sure we understand the impact on the supply side of natural resources that we use. It is understanding environmental impacts and making sure we’re not causing negative impacts unnecessarily. It’s being able to ensure that we are able to satisfy our demands now and in the future without facing any environmental challenges.
Early on at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, emissions, waste and natural resource consumption were low. A lot of the manufacturing impacts on the environment were not taken into account because the volumes that we were generating were much, much lower than we have today. The methods and approaches in manufacturing we use today are really built on a lot of those approaches that we developed back then.
The reality is that the situation today has drastically changed, but our approaches have not. There is plenty of industrialization going on around the globe. And, there is plenty of pollution and waste generated. In addition, a lot of materials we use in manufacturing are nonrenewable resources.
So it sounds like countries that are industrialized now picked up a lot of bad habits. And we know that growth is coming from these developing nations and we don’t want them to repeat those bad habits. But we want to raise their standard of living just without the consequences that we brought to the environment.
Yeah, absolutely. So there was an article I read a long time ago that said China and India either will destroy the world or save it. And I think the rationale was that if China and India copy the model and technologies used in the West to building its industrial system, the world will see drastic negative impact on the environment. The key factor here is the significantly high scale of activities needed to support their very large populations. However, if they are much more innovative and come up with much more efficient and cleaner methods better than used in the West to build up industrial enterprises, they would save the world because the scale of what they do is significant.
In talking about how these two countries could either ruin or save the world, do you remain an optimist?
Absolutely. I serve on the the United Nations Environment Program’s International Resource Panel. One of the IRP’s roles is to inform policy through validated independent scientific studies. One of the panel’s reports is called the Global Resources Outlook. The last report was published in 2019.
The experts are saying that if business as usual continues, we’re probably going to increase greenhouse gas emission by 43% by 2060. However, if we employ effective sustainability measures across the globe, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a significant percentage, even by as much as 90%. A 2018 study I led for the IRP found that applying remanufacturing alongside other resource recovery methods like comprehensive refurbishment, repair and reuse could cut greenhouse gas emissions of those products by 79%–99% across manufacturing supply chains.
So there is optimism if we employ many sustainability measures. However, I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s always disappointing to see that the indicators are there; the approaches to address some of those issues are identified, but the will to actually employ them isn’t. Despite this, I’m still optimistic because we know enough about the right path forward and it is still not too late to move in the right direction.
Were there any lessons we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that we can apply to challenges we’re facing?
We learned a lot from the COVID crisis. When the risk became known, even though not all agreed, people around the globe took significant measures and actions to address the challenge. We accepted changes to the way we live and interact, we marshaled all of our resources to develop vaccines and address the medical supply shortages. The bottom line is that we rose to the occasion and we, in most part, took actions to deal with the risk in a significant way.
The environmental challenges we face today, like climate change, are serious global challenges as well. However, they have been occurring over a long time and, unfortunately, mostly have not been taken as seriously as they should have been. We certainly have learned that when we have the will to address serious challenges, we can meet them.
Final question. Give me the elevator pitch on remanufacturing.
Remanufacturing is a process by which we bring a product that has been used back to a like-new-or-better condition. Through a rigorous industrial process, we disassemble the product to the component level. We clean, inspect and restore it, qualifying every part. We then reassemble the product similar to what happened when it was built the first time. The reality is that by doing so, you’re using anywhere from 70% to 90% of the materials recovered from the use phase. This has significantly far lower impacts on the environment when compared to making new products from raw materials.
You don’t mine virgin material for that. You’re saving the energy that made those parts; you’re saving the capital equipment that made those parts; you’re saving the labor cost. So the savings are significant. The overall savings are about 50%. For example, a remanufactured vehicle part in the United States requires less than 10% of the energy needed to make a new one, and less than 5% of new materials. That means lower costs for the producer while providing the consumer with a very high-quality product. Examples of commonly remanufactured products are construction equipment, automotive engines and transmissions, medical equipment and aircraft parts. Those products are similar to brand-new products, and companies like Xerox, Caterpillar and GE all have made remanufacturing an important part of their overall operations.
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