Only one in four UK suppliers regularly asked for climate data by end-user businesses, survey reveals

Despite an uptick in corporate commitments to net-zero supply chains, just 25% of the UK suppliers polled in a recent survey stated that their buyers routinely ask them for emissions information.

The results suggest that end-users are still struggling to properly address Scope 3 (indirect) emissions

The results suggest that end-users are still struggling to properly address Scope 3 (indirect) emissions

Published on Thursday (18 November) by cloud solutions provider Ivalua, the survey covered 100 UK-based suppliers as well as 200 across France, Germany and Switzerland. The cohort included businesses supplying the healthcare, financial, retail, IT, manufacturing, energy, transportation, logistics, tourism, marketing and professional services sectors.

Of the UK-based suppliers, just 25% said their buyers regularly collect or request emissions data. Across the whole cohort of 300 suppliers, the proportion stood at 24%.

Disclosure requests from end-user businesses were found to be even less common for other environmental topics including air pollution (22%), water stewardship (21%) and deforestation (20%). Just one in ten of the 300 suppliers polled said that end-user businesses always include sustainability-related requirements in contracts and agreements.

On emissions specifically, the report highlights how UK businesses will need to improve supplier engagement rapidly if they are to comply with upcoming changes to legislation and regulation. Large firms in high-emitting sectors will, for example, be required to measure and disclose climate risk across their value chains by April 2022, and to publish net-zero transition plans from 2023.

For many of these firms, 90% or more of their overall emissions footprint will lie in Scope 3 (indirect) sources such as the supply chain.

Supplier appetite

The report highlights how suppliers, for the most part, are keen to improve their environmental impact and to disclose more sustainability-related information. Three-quarters of the 300 suppliers polled said they believe sustainability is a competitive advantage, while 57% said they are confident that buyers would opt for a sustainable option, even at a higher cost.

However, the suppliers polled also pointed to the need for end-user businesses to support them on their sustainability journey. More than one-third (35%) of the survey respondents said that an improved ability to collaborate with buyers would “significantly” increase their ability to accelerate decarbonisation, improve resource efficiency and reduce environmental harm.

“Suppliers have a vital role to play in reducing environmental impact, but organisations have a responsibility to give them the right tools to boost green initiatives,” said Ivalua’s smart procurement lead Alex Saric.  “This means regularly communicating with suppliers, assessing their efforts, and providing them with the flexibility to offer innovative solutions.”

Covid-19 reporting 

In related news, supply chain and logistics consultancy Scala has published the results of a survey of 22 of its customers, revealing that four in five are not effectively monitoring their environmental impact amid Covid-19. 

Businesses reported needs for additional transport, packaging and warehousing amid a move to online sales - which all generate additional environmental impacts, despite potential savings from operational teams working remotely. Yet just four of the businesses were properly accounting for changes to emissions. 

Scala's managing director John Perry said this is "simply not enough". 

Perry said: “As the world’s attention focuses on the COP26 summit in Glasgow, more is needed to inform businesses on the steps they can take to monitor and reduce their emissions, which may have significantly increased over the past eighteen months. Businesses clearly need direction and support in mapping their footprint and identifying issues within the supply chain is a great place to start.”


One week left to register: edie's online Net-Zero Carbon Inspiration Sessions

Readers interested in learning more about net-zero delivery for their own organisations are urged to register for edie's digital Net-Zero Carbon Inspiration Sessions, taking place on Thursday 25 November.

Sustainability specialists from Pukka Herbs, Virgin Media O2, Costain and the Zero Carbon Forum have been confirmed amongst the first speakers for this free-to-attend, half-day webinar event. Click here for full details and to register. 


Sarah George



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