C2.11 continued…


Companies operate to make a profit. If they are retailers or manufacturers, that means selling things. When energy efficient models outsell those with poor efficiency, they will start making and selling more energy efficient models. When we select goods that do not have excess packaging over those that do, they will sell items with less packaging. If they do not, they will lose out to their competitors that do.

As companies become more aware that their customers expect a certain level of environmental performance, they begin considering environmental issues. Just think of how many products advertised now push the environmental attributes – energy saving, made from recycled materials, can be recycled etc. Supermarkets now have signs informing their customers of how much carbon they have saved or how little waste they have produced with their latest initiatives.

A similar effect has occurred in the financial markets. As ethical shares become increasing popular as consumers do not wish to invest in activities such as the arms trade or child labour, investment companies offer alternatives that do not include such activities.

This is environmental management in the supply chain.

Just as consumers can influence the actions of their suppliers, so can organisations. To ensure that the environmental impacts of an organisation’s operations are truly minimised, it is important to influence others that have an indirect impact on its activities.

It is now common for organisations to conduct environmental performance evaluations of potential suppliers.

When engaging a contractor, an organisation should check the environmental performance of the organisation it is considering employing. Does it have a good environmental track record? Is it managing its environmental impacts effectively?

When sourcing a supplier, issues such as location (and therefore transport impacts), and composite materials (is wood from sustainable sources) should be considered. The value of an item is more understood than simply price. The cheapest item is not the best value of the lifespan is half that of another item due to replacement costs.

The complexity here is just how much can an organisation be expected to influence? It is of course easier for large organisations to demand certain levels of environmental performance. However, all organisations in a supply chain can influence each other in some way.

It is important to remember that the underlying principle of an EMS is continual improvement. No organisation is expected to tackle its entire supply chain in one go, but by focusing on the areas where the environmental impact is highest, improvements are possible.