Greening Your Supply Chain
Much of your business’ environmental footprint may seem beyond your control. Vendors and other partners may use unsustainable materials, packaging, and processing techniques, but their manufacturing decisions still ultimately affect your company’s environmental impact. Greening your supply chain can seem challenging, but here are a few ways to introduce green initiatives to your vendors and partners, encouraging and supporting their efforts to operate more sustainably.
Leading by example is an important start in encouraging partner businesses to undertake their own green initiatives. Examine environmental challenges your company has been addressing, like adopting waste reduction strategies for your business operations, practicing energy and water conservation, or taking action to improve indoor air quality or eliminate toxins in the workplace. Whether your efforts are just beginning or you have already achieved significant goals, make sure to publicize these efforts through company marketing materials, websites, and other media. Include statements about your sustainability policies on your invoice template in the footer, or as part of email signature blocks.
Making vendors aware that sustainability is an important element in your business decisions gives them incentive to consider going green too. Your experiences with environmental initiatives also makes you a perfect eco-mentor, so consider offering guidance and best-practice suggestions to vendors and other partners as they move toward being more sustainable businesses.
Your suppliers can be further encouraged to assess and mitigate their environmental impact through the implementation of a green procurement policy. Setting written guidelines for your suppliers and other partners gives your vendors concrete targets for their manufacturing and shipping practices and can help them to provide you with the most appropriate product and service packages to meet your green goals. Working with your existing vendor to determine how they can continue to fulfill your supply needs while also meeting eco-friendly standards gives a strong economic incentive to pursue sustainability initiatives. This in turn can result in greener offerings for all of your vendor’s clients, driving change throughout your industry.
Procurement policies often include recycled, reclaimed, or re-manufactured content minimums in products. However, they can also include shipping specifications (avoiding expedited shipping or requiring ground-based transportation reduces carbon footprints and shipping costs) or green certification requirements (encouraging vendors to meet the minimum environmental standards for their industries’ green certifications).
When seeking new vendors, make sustainability a key consideration in choosing a partner. Local business sourcing strategies will also minimize your carbon footprint and shipping costs, and you can also ask potential vendors directly about sustainable aspects of their product line and business practices. The EPA’s Green Suppliers Network can be a great resource in finding manufacturers that are actively working to reduce their environmental impact.
Finally, while greening your supply chain can seem like a daunting task for your small business, know that there are many resources available to assist you. The EPA publishes a great guide for a “Lean and Green Supply Chain” that can provide many additional suggestions. The Green Business Bureau can also give you detailed recommendations for working with suppliers or developing a sustainable procurement policy. Does your company practice green procurement? Have you reached out to your vendors about their environmental policies? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.