A new report by CDP, the non-profit global environmental disclosure platform, has revealed a step-change in corporate awareness and action on environmental impacts within the supply chain in the last decade.
In 2018, 115 organisations wielding a combined purchasing power in excess of US$3.3trn, requested environmental information from 5,500+ of their key suppliers, a major increase on the 14 ten years ago. Suppliers reported emissions reductions of 633mn metric tonnes of carbon dioxide – greater than the emissions of South Korea in 2017 – leading to collective cost savings of US$19.3bn.
Cascading commitments: Driving upstream action through supply chain engagement compiles data disclosed through CDP by 5,562 global suppliers. It also reveals a 35% growth in targets for water use among suppliers, compared to 2017, while the number of companies disclosing information to their customers on their forests-related impacts has more than tripled, from 88 in 2017 to 305 in 2018.
For many, sustainability is now a major factor in their purchasing decisions with nearly three quarters (73%) of a subset of 27 major purchasers answering a CDP survey revealing that they are either currently deselecting, or considering deselecting, existing suppliers based on their environmental performance. 63% are either currently using, or considering using, data from CDP disclosures to influence whether they contract with suppliers or not. This is in stark contrast to the 4% and 9% respectively, who were doing this a decade ago.
“In the ten years that we have been working with purchasing organizations we have seen a fundamental shift in expectations around business action on sustainability,” commented Sonya Bhonsle, Global Head of Supply Chain at CDP. “Leading purchasers are using disclosure to push positive change down the supply chain, with data playing an increasingly important role in their decision-making.
“If suppliers continue to cascade good practices further down the supply chain, this has the potential to play a huge role in the rapid transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. However, with only 57% of suppliers reporting emissions reductions activities, and less than half (47%) with emissions reduction targets in place, the transformation in their customers’ expectations means that those suppliers failing to act sustainably may increasingly see it impact their bottom line.”
As organizations take an increasingly holistic approach to environmental management, the number of companies demanding transparency on water security in the supply chain continues to grow:
- 43 major purchasing organizations – including Braskem, HP Inc, and Intel – asked their suppliers to report on water in 2018, up from 37 in 2017. 1,709 suppliers submitted responses, an 11% increase from last year.
- There has been a rise in suppliers reporting water targets, growing from 51% in 2017 to 69% this year.
- But with less than half of companies reporting board-level oversight of water issues – compared to 69% for climate issues – governance of water security remains low.
Deforestation and forest degradation accounts for approximately 10-15% of the world's Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, revealing that protecting forests is rising up the corporate agenda:
“Sustainability is not an added extra,” commented Andrew McMullen, The LEGO Group. “It has become a key strand of our approach for supplier relationship management. In particular, we know that disclosure through CDP is a great lens for looking at energy and resource efficiency. If we can help suppliers to improve this then there is a huge amount of shared value to be gained, where we can both benefit from reduced environmental impact and cost savings.”
CDP has awarded over 120 companies – out of a total of 5,000 – a place on its third annual Supplier Engagement leader board, which represents more than double the 58 in 2018. Canon, Diageo, GlaxoSmithKline, Mastercard, National Grid and Tessy Plastics are just a few of the major industry players recognised for their work with suppliers to reduce emissions and lower environmental risks in the supply chain.
Other leading examples among the 120+ companies include:
“Suppliers are critical partners as we work to transform our supply chain and deliver positive, lasting impact for our planet, people and communities,” commented Stuart Pann, Chief Supply Chain Officer at HP Inc. “For nearly a decade, we’ve used supplier environmental data in our procurement scorecard to help our suppliers advance from awareness and measurement to setting goals and taking action to reduce negative environmental impacts, including GHG emissions. Engagement through the CDP Supply Chain program supports our efforts to reduce our upstream emissions and strengthen the long-term security of supply. HP is proud to be named to CDP’s Supplier Engagement Rating Leaderboard for the third consecutive year, recognizing our continued focus on driving sustainable impact into our supply chain.”
“Procurement teams have the power to create and amplify positive change,” commented Hugh Jones, Managing Director, Advisory, at The Carbon Trust, which co-wrote the report. “But to exercise this power they must make sustainability a decisive factor in evaluating suppliers, elevating it to sit alongside cost, quality, and security of supply. Only then can a business truly claim it has sustainability at its heart. And this means procurement teams must understand their most significant impacts, ask the right questions, and actively provide support to help their supply chain to take action. The good news is that there’s so much shared value to be found in greening the supply chain, which can help to increase efficiency, reduce resource costs, enter new markets, and make supply chains more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate and a changing world.”
“By taking action along the supply chain, companies can send price signals that reverberate throughout the economy and embed climate action at all levels”, commented Yoshiaki Harada, Minister of the Environment, Government of Japan, who has written a foreword for the report. “Members of the CDP Supply Chain program have set an example here, showing other organizations how to effectively create sustainable change through supplier engagement. As part of our commitment to driving climate action the Japanese government will be joining the 115 CDP Supply Chain members asking a selection of suppliers to disclose their climate change information to us through CDP in 2019.”