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How to Get Greener Suppliers in 6 Steps

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Your company’s eco reputation is important to you, but while it’s relatively easy to have an overview of your own operations, the green credentials of your suppliers also play a role in your sustainability claims. Here are a few tips on how to spot and nurture suppliers that take sustainability as seriously as you do:

1.       Create Your Own Code of Conduct
Naturally, you expect your business partners to comply with local laws and regulations, but it helps to clearly define your expectations by creating a simple, concise supplier code of conduct. You can incorporate the standards set forth in SA8000 or in the Global Social Compliance Program (GSCP), or benchmark your standards against those of other companies. 

2.       Evaluate Potential Suppliers
When you approach new suppliers, ask questions:  Do they have an environmentally conscious supply chain? Which recycling services do they offer? Is there a supplier code of conduct? How do their working conditions, environmental practices, safety standards and human rights criteria measure up? How do they enforce social and environmental legislation in their production countries?

3.       Offer Corporate Responsibility Training
Corporate responsibility training can help your employees to make more educated choices and your suppliers to improve their performance.  After all, it is your commitment and your actions that will show them how seriously you take the subject of sustainable operation, so they’ll know it’s an area that requires special attention. 

4.       Establish a Collaborative Working Relationship
Ask your suppliers to provide you with detailed information about their social and environmental practices, but pay extra attention to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to build a closer working relationship. So, for example, carrying out a factory visit will allow you to experience the practices and protocols of your supplier first-hand.

5.       Keep the Lines of Communication Open
It’s never too early to define your expectations – start at tender stage – and continue to work together to ensure that your suppliers can help your organisation meet its sustainability goals. If your supplier struggles to meet your expectations, devise a clear plan of action, a defined timeline of improvement, and an agreed evaluation process.

6.       Report Your Results
Including a supplier performance overview in your annual report shows appreciation for your suppliers’ efforts throughout the year, and can build trust with customers and other stakeholders. Reporting your efforts also helps to set a precedent and achieve future buy-in from senior management. 

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