Know your suppliers' environmental impact

Tracking the environmental performance of organisations in your supply chain can be as an important as monitoring your own - but is often far more difficult.

Talking at the Environmental Technology (ET) show at Birmingham's NEC on Tuesday, May 16 Martin Baxter, technical director for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) outlined how to overcome some of the hurdles.

Simply asking suppliers to tick a box saying they have an environmental management system is no longer adequate, he said.

"It's old hat and it doesn't work. You need something more reliable."

When looking at a suppliers' impact, he said, it is important to bear in mind that their overall emissions, energy use and other indicators are not always the best gauge.

Looking at how they perform compared with their peers often gives a more realistic impression.

"The best way to reduce your environmental impact is to close down your operation, but that's not always a viable option," he joked.

Defra's key performance indicators (KPIs) can be a good place to start, said Mr Baxter, as they give sector-specific recommendations on what environmental factors companies should be reporting on.

Membership of recognised certification schemes such as ISO14001 or sustainable forestry labels can also take the pain out of judging whether or not your supplier meets your environmental standards, he said.

IEMA's own Acorn scheme also offers a benchmark which showed an organisation met recognised standards, he said.

"The scheme is open to anybody and there are a number of targets you can work towards," he told edie.

"You can choose to have your performance checked by an independent verifier.

"The beauty of the scheme is that anyone can participate. It's not solely for small or large companies - we've got everything from huge Plcs to a butcher in Northern Ireland on board."

"They can improve their environmental performance and there are big business drivers for doing that."

"And they can also gauge exactly how they are improving it and where they can make changes, boost their reputation and have confidence that they are complying with environmental legislation.

"That's a major step up for many companies - ask them if they comply and they tell you they are, but scratch the surface and that's often not the case."

Sam Bond



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