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John Bilcliffe

Greening your supply chain

The bulk of many organisations’ carbon footprint can be located in the supply chain, rather than inside their own business. An example of this would be the NHS: 59% of their carbon emissions can be found inside their supply chain for reasons such as pharmaceutical production.

There are many benefits to making your supply chain greener especially if you are going to write a tender! It’s not just about reducing your overall footprint. The purchase of greener materials for your supply chain means that there is a lower risk of accidents on your site. An example of this would be gradually phasing out the purchase of potentially hazardous chemical materials and replacing them with greener options. It is similarly important to reduce the risk of social and environmental problems being attributed to your business through your supply chain. You should strive with your supply chain to strengthen your markets for green products and services. When completing a PQQ or writing a tender you should also ensure that all of the information you have on your green processes is included for maximum points.

At the core of greening your supply chain you will find that you have 3 options:

  1. Purchase less stuff

This is the easiest option of the three, as it is primarily about reducing the amount that you buy in order to reduce waste. Techniques for buying less typically include: a. Check if you really do need the products you purchase: you would be amazed at how much of what you buy never get used and just sits collecting dust or expires before use
b. Ensure that dimensions and quantities match your requirements; this will mean that the product needs less processing before it’s ready for the customer
c. Carefully manage your stock levels of perishable items: buying too much is wasteful, too little may not prove as cost effective as it could be.
d. Strive to try and keep stocks as low as possible, especially for those products that are perishable. Price forecasting should also be borne in mind, as if prices are set to rise it may prove more efficient to stock up before the price increase.
2. Purchase ‘better’ stuff

In this sense, better simply means more eco-efficient, whether it is solar, cyclical or safe. Examples include: a. Using sheep’s wool insulation, which has 91% less embodied energy than Rockwool
b. Using recycled materials: recycled aluminium has 95% less embodied energy than virgin material
c. Using a solar powered ISP (internet service provider)
d. Using a cycle courier instead of a motorcycle courier
e. Sourcing your food products locally, reducing the amount of ‘food miles’
3. Purchase stuff from ‘better’ suppliers

You can and will be held responsible for your suppliers by the press and your customers. Toyota sourced nickel for the battery for their Prius from a smelter in Canada that had had pollution problems in the past. This seriously affected the Prius’ image of being an environmentally friendly alternative to the regular automobile. There is an array of ways to identify potential problems within your supply chain: a. Attempt to audit your potential suppliers using a simple short questionnaire and visit their main sites if you can: there are a multitude of different reading materials available that list the ‘ethical’ performance of companies against set criteria on which you can model your questionnaire.
b. Impose a ranking system for your suppliers. For example, you could rank your suppliers from A to D, A being the most eco-friendly. Sharp does this and gives preference to those who are more eco-savvy than the others: this also inspires the lower performing suppliers to make themselves more environmentally competitive.

John Bilcliffe, bid writer for Executive Compass®

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