Why Over 90% of Your Eco Impact is in Your Supply Chain

Is it possible that as a business over 90% of your total environmental impact is in your supply chain?

Supply Chain

Puma recently found that it was. 94% in fact. Of this, over half of those impacts were associated with the production of raw materials like leather, cotton, timber far down the supply chain. Only 6% of the impacts were from their offices, warehouses, stores and logistics.

It’s enough to grab attention isn’t it, and it’s probably similar for most manufacturers and producers.

It offers a real insight into the environmental consequences of commercial decisions. These startling figures also begin to connect the environmental and ethical crises that we hear about around the world with businesses and their supply chains that produce our everyday products.


Global Supply Chains Make it Hard to Know the Stories of the Simplest Products:

Nobody deliberately sets out to do harm – but with supply chains reaching across the globe, even for the simplest of products, we no longer know their stories. Without asking for them we will remain ignorant to their impacts, unless we buy products with credible eco-labels or are certified to an appropriate standard.

It is the not knowing that is increasingly creating a risk for businesses – big and small. If you don’t know if something is illegally harvested, has been produced by children or has destroyed a pristine natural environment how do you know what your business risk is? Equally, companies that are beginning to scratch the surface of their supply chains and changing them are reaping the rewards of doing so.


What can Businesses do?

In terms of what a business can do, it does rather depend on the nature of the business. For a service provider the main environmental and social impacts will be in its operations – the amount and choice of resources consumed, waste produced, impacts on the local economy and contributions to community.

The difference a service business can make is to continue to green their offices but also to buy ‘greener’ products – those with environmental and ethical certifications. So for example, office furniture and paper products that carry the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo  - which isn’t a bad idea anyway with the new EU Timber Regulation that makes it illegal to import illegal timber and wood-based products. There are other logos to look out for too when you buy office equipment and consumables like Blue Angel, EU Ecolabel and Energy Star to name a few.

PICT0007 Why Over 90% of Your Eco Impact is in Your Supply Chain

For manufacturers and producers most of the impacts are likely to be in supply chains.

Looking for these impacts might seem like a daunting task to start – but the rewards in learning about and working with suppliers and the richness of the stories that can be told as a result are more than compensatory as many of the big brands are now discovering. If products and materials do not exist with appropriate eco-labels or certifications then the starting point will be to understand where the environmental and ethical hotspots are in supply chains and to work in the areas where the business can make a difference.

This series of blogs over the coming months will explore the environmental and ethical hotspots in the various product and material categories and talk more about how to work with suppliers and supply chains to reduce them.

Written: Dr. Lisa Drewe, Newleaf Practice


Image: FactorScan

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