Supply chain efficiency

How to improve your suppliers' environmental performance


You can reduce the environmental impact of your supply chain by conducting a detailed review of the resource efficiency of each business in the chain - including your own. Look for ways to reduce waste and to improve the efficiency with which resources such as water and energy are used. Examine opportunities for reuse and recycling of materials and packaging.

You should investigate whether there are technologies that you can use to improve the efficiency and sustainability of your supply chain. For example, using electronic data interchange technology can reduce your supply chain costs and paperwork.

You may be able to encourage your suppliers to develop an environmental management system by establishing purchasing policies that have an environmental policy as one of the key criteria. You can insist that your suppliers have policies designed to reduce waste, raw material use and energy and water consumption, and to use renewable resources wherever possible.

You should consider the advantages of requiring suppliers to have their environmental performance validated by implementing one or more stages of the standard BS 8555. This can help drive environmental improvements through your supply chain.

Your suppliers should follow the principles of continual improvement and have key performance indicators to measure and monitor improvements.

You can have your own environmental policy that your suppliers agree to follow, which sets out requirements on both sides to reduce waste and improve efficiency. The benefits of this are:

  • greater control over energy, materials, water and waste costs
  • improved efficiency
  • better and easier compliance with legislation
  • competitive advantages in dealing with other environmentally aware businesses

If your business is certified to the ISO 14001 standard or is verified under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), you must carry out an environmental review of your suppliers. This typically includes:

  • a pre-survey questionnaire
  • a site survey by an experienced person, such as a trained auditor from your business or an external consultant that you appoint and pay for
  • a report outlining the supplier's existing procedures, current environmental performance and suggestions for improvements and further action

The results of the review will enable your suppliers to focus their efforts on identifying and implementing opportunities to reduce waste.

If you're not in a position to persuade your suppliers you could emphasise the benefits of reducing their environmental impacts.