Guide

Supply chain efficiency

How to select a sustainable supplier

Using a supplier who can meet your standards for environmental and social issues can help you reduce your impacts through your supply chain.

You may decide to reward a supplier who can exceed your requirements and provide a more sustainable product or service.

You can evaluate the environmental and social performance of a supplier before you award a contract to them for goods and/or services. This is called pre-qualification.

You may choose to use a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) to check that a supplier can meet your standards for environmental and social issues. You may want to consider:

  • environmental management practices, eg ask if the supplier uses a certified environmental management system (EMS) such as ISO 14001 to assess their own environmental impacts, monitor their environmental impact and performance, maintain legal compliance and gain senior management commitment
  • compliance with environmental legislation, eg check your supplier has not been prosecuted for breaking the law
  • a product's environmental impact, eg ask about its resource use, whether waste is created during its manufacture, whether it uses hazardous substances, how much packaging it uses
  • delivery of your own specific environmental or social aims, eg to reduce the carbon footprint throughout your supply chain, becoming a signatory of the Ethical Trading Initiative base code
  • the supplier's buying practices - this can be useful in identifying environmental and social risks further down your supply chain
  • social responsibility policy and practices, eg whether the supplier identifies and assesses their own social risks and those of their supply chain and whether the supplier monitors compliance with International Labour Organisation standards in their supply chains

Improve supplier performance

You can work with your suppliers to help them develop and improve their own environmental and social performance.

For example, you could:

  • audit key suppliers, providing guidance and advice to encourage improvements, eg developing an EMS
  • hold supplier training or improvement workshops, eg this could be related to a particular environmental impact such as reducing carbon emissions in your supply chain
  • work with a supplier to develop an improved product or service
  • identify and use local suppliers
  • set supplier targets or key performance indicators to measure continual improvement of your suppliers and contractors

You could look at sustainability considerations in your supply chain more formally.