Code planned on greening the supply chain

A code of practice on assessing the environmental performance of suppliers is to be drawn up by Business in the Environment (BiE). Its aim will be to discourage every corporate purchaser from reinventing the wheel by providing guidelines on a consistent approach to supplier screening.

BiE's initiative is a response to the growing confusion in the marketplace which has been caused by the initial efforts of major corporate purchasers to achieve a "greening" of their supply chains. Pioneers in the field have included B&Q (ENDS Report 203, pp 12-15), British Telecom (ENDS Report 208, pp 22-24 ) and IBM UK (see pp 19-22 ).

Suppliers on the receiving end, many of them small businesses, have faced a bewildering array of questionnaires about their environmental policies and practices. One catering company, says BiE, has received 40 questionnaires. "There is tremendous uncertainty among suppliers as to what they will be asked next," commented a BiE spokesman.

Participants in BiE's project are the Institute of Purchasing and Supply, management consultants KPMG, and 20 large companies. These have become involved largely in the guise of purchasers, although, as IBM's experience has shown, they too are now receiving environmental questionnaires from their customers. BiE will hold a workshop in October with the aim of roping smaller firms into the project.

The code's objective will be to assist purchasers in asking meaningful questions of their suppliers in as consistent a fashion as possible. BiE also expects it to be valuable to suppliers in improving their environmental performance.

The code is due to be published next May. Firms interested in taking part in the consultation process should contact BiE at 5 Cleveland Place, London SW1Y 6JJ (tel: 071-321 6430).

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