Three steps to demonstrate you’re a sustainable supplier

Being a sustainable supplier is increasingly important in winning and retaining customers

Being a sustainable supplier is increasingly important in winning and retaining customers

Demonstrating sustainability in your business operations and your supply chain creates competitive advantage, increased revenue, a strengthened brand and reduces risk. Being a sustainable supplier is increasingly important in winning and retaining customers.

Suppliers constantly need to improve their sustainability credentials, particularly in response to information requests and pre-qualification questionnaires.  In order to award contracts, many public sector organisations and private companies require their suppliers to provide evidence of sustainability in their business and their supply chain.

Quantifying and communicating sustainability simply and clearly is one of the biggest business benefits from schemes such as The Planet Mark certification and from corporate sustainability more generally.

In this article we provide three steps to demonstrate you are a sustainable supplier:

1. Start with your organisation

To ensure that you are a sustainable supplier, change must happen from within your business. Creating and communicating your sustainability objectives, plan and targets will help engage your staff and stakeholders in the process.  This will enable you to improve your social and environmental impacts and achieve independent certifications as a result.

Land Securities, the largest commercial property company in the UK, do this effectively in their head office in the Strand, London, which they use as a live laboratory to trial sustainability initiatives.

Working with Planet First and waste providers Bywaters, Land Securities set up the Cycling Smoothie making

Working with Planet First and waste providers Bywaters, Land Securities set up the Cycling Smoothie making

For example, Land Securities hosted a ‘Waste Olympics’ awareness day to improve employee recycling rates. Working with Planet First and waste providers Bywaters, they set up the ‘Cycling Smoothie making’, ‘Recycling Relay’ and ‘Not Just Waste Javelin’ competitions between departments.

Sarah Beattie, senior environment manager, Land Securities said: “Engaging our staff and stakeholders in sustainability is crucial to the success of our overall sustainability programme. The 4.3 per cent reduction per employee in our carbon footprint over 2013-2014 was made possible through our stakeholders working responsibly and in the direction of our overall goal.”

2. Introduce a supplier questionnaire

Most organisations are both supplier and procurer. This means it is important to present your expectations of own supply chain.

You can start by introducing a supplier sustainability survey or include questions in a general questionnaire to ask your suppliers about their environmental credentials, policies and their initiatives.  This will not only enable you to choose your suppliers with sustainability in mind, but also provide evidence of your supplier engagement to your customers.

Your organisation can establish a minimum standard that it expects from its suppliers and by asking right at the beginning of the relationship it means that all parties are aware of expectations going forward.

M&S has put a sustainable supply chain approach into action through Plan A

M&S has put a sustainable supply chain approach into action through Plan A

Marks and Spencer has put a sustainable supply chain approach into action through Plan A. It has worked with their food suppliers to advance them through a Gold/Silver/Bronze sustainability benchmarking programme.

Since it launched in 2007, Plan A has helped M&S generate a £625 million net benefit from its sustainability programme and is a recognised leader in its sector.  You can hear about the business benefits in our video with M&S and other leaders in sustainability here.

3. Present your environmental credentials in bids and tenders

Pre-qualification questionnaires and information requests often include a section on sustainability. Being able to present concrete evidence and measured outputs quickly demonstrates that sustainability is important to your business. By measuring your carbon footprint and setting reduction targets you can quantify your positive environmental impacts. Mentioning any initiatives in your local community can improve your social value impacts and give you an edge over the competition.

Harrow Green is a provider of business relocation, storage & IT relocation services, international moving, recycling & reuse. It decided to achieve The Planet Mark sustainability certification in order to maximise the impact of the sustainability initiatives it was putting into practice. By presenting hard evidence of its commitment to sustainability and the environment, Harrow Green has been able to win contracts that previously it would not have been eligible for.

“Sustainability is becoming a more prominent feature in most bids as customers seek to choose suppliers who can demonstrate their credentials. Having an external certification to validate our activities is a big help in achieving high scores in this area,” says Nigel Dews, ceo, Harrow Green.

We hope these simple steps will give you a head start on new business pitches, increasing your score on bids and tenders by becoming a sustainable supplier.

Find out more about The Planet Mark at www.planetfirst.co.uk