Last week IBM announced (http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2010/04/smarter-sustainabilityold.html) that it was requiring all its’ supplier to put in place an environmental management system (EMS). Here’s what they are asking suppliers to do :-
We’re asking them to establish voluntary environmental goals and measure performance for at least three topics applicable to virtually all businesses: energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management/recycling. In addition, we’re asking them to publicly disclose their results. We’re also asking that these requirements be cascaded down to any of their suppliers who perform work for them that is material to what is ultimately supplied to IBM.
Importantly this is regardless of the nature of the business, albeit commensurate with the nature of its business. So whether the supplier has what it might previously have considered material environmental aspects or not, the supplier now needs to have a formal EMS.
The retail sector has also been turning the screw in the supply chain over the last year – Walmart being a good example. So this is just one more piece of evidence of the screw being tightened, albeit gently.
This is not overly demanding, it only talks about “voluntary” environmental goals, it seems to lack some specificity around the EMS, so it is clear IBM wants to take a softly softly approach. But it is non-the-less significant. Not least because it says regardless of the nature of your business you have environmental aspects that you need to manage and report. And it requires them to cascade this further down the supply chain. IBM’s ability to verify that is very limited, but it is establishing an important principle. The effects of which will be felt far and wide.
Others will do similar things, so expect increasing pressure cascading down the supply chain.
The low-carbon and environmental leadership assessment of ICT vendors and service providers that we will soon publish in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), clearly shows that the supply chain is an important area of differentiation between suppliers.
There is a very long way to go, and many hurdles to cross, but the days of environmental performance being unimportant and opaque are numbered.
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