As well as looking at your own suppliers, it will benefit your business if you consider your own environmental performance as a supplier. You can maintain and improve your competitive edge by committing to improve your environmental awareness and reduce the impact of your activities.
Increasingly many major businesses, government departments and other public bodies have environmental standards as a key requirement in their procurement policies. If you do not match these standards, you may not even be considered as a potential supplier - no matter how good your products or services.
As a minimum, you should have a written environmental policy with action points and key performance indicators listed. You should produce regular environmental reports and carry out staff training and performance monitoring. This policy can be objectively assessed by various independent bodies, and you could also make a public declaration of the steps you have taken to protect the environment.
More formally, you can also apply for certification to an environmental management system standard, such as ISO 14001, BS 8555 or the European Union Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).
Developing an environmentally sustainable supply chain with your customers, as with your suppliers, commits you to a common set of agreed standards, and to continually improve your performance. Significant benefits can result, in the form of reduced cost, increased business and an improved image among customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders.
You may also be able to encourage organisations further up the supply chain to improve their environmental performance. Even if you are a small supplier to a much larger buying organisation, if you can demonstrate potential cost savings that lead to improved environmental performance you may be able to persuade the buyer to pass on some of the savings to you.