Supply Chain Management for Environmental Improvement

Outreach and Assistance to Suppliers

Many suppliers and contractors are willing to work with customers, and meet their environmental standards or requirements. After all, good environmental practices increase efficiency and competitiveness, and save money. Furthermore, meeting customer requirements usually means continued business.

On the other hand, rigorous environmental requirements, or a different set of requirements from each major customer, may prove unattractive or overwhelming to suppliers and contractors. Some smaller suppliers may not be able to devote the necessary resources on their own, to be able to implement necessary changes.

As a customer interested in greening your supply chain, be ready to actively participate in the supplier's efforts by investing time, resources, and other assistance. Examples of assistance to suppliers include providing access to tools, information, or programs that your company has had success with, offering training and mentorship from your staff or through third-party consultants, and being an available resource to key suppliers when needed.

Who's Doing It?

Hewlett-Packard offers a one-year training program providing management of its China suppliers with the knowledge to improve social and environmental responsibility practices in factories. The provides clear and measurable benefits such as increased productivity and quality and reduced worker turnover, injuries and illnesses.

Fetzner Vineyards, a wine producer, committed to growing and purchasing organic grapes; offers training in organic methods to their growers (suppliers)

General Motors, a major auto manufacturer, conducts workshops and provides onsite assistance at supplier facilities worldwide, to reduce waste and improve productivity.

Herman Miller (see page 32), a furniture manufacturer and service provider, holds conferences for employees and all suppliers on its environmentally conscious manufacturing and procurement policies.

Home Depot, a home improvement retailer, educated themselves and suppliers about sustainable forestry.

Roche Vitamins educates and assists suppliers in achieving environmental goals

Additional Resources

From the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (NEETF) and
   - Standardizing Excellence: Working with Smaller Businesses to Implement Environmental Management Systems;
   - Environmental Mentoring: Benefits, Challenges & Opportunities; and
   - Green Business Assistance Network

PPRC's Topic Hub on Environmental Mentoring

The Ford Motor Company has published their ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Workbook used in training their suppliers

Greenware's Environmental Management, Audit and Reporting Software Solutions includes ISO 14000 software for assessing, implementing, and auditing environmental management systems

Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR) study: Suppliers Perspectives on Greening the Supply Chain

Suggestions on Outreach and Assistance to Suppliers

checkbox Make suppliers or contractors aware of your requirements, and well in advance of the effective date


  • Develop and publish your environmental criteria
  • Put yourself in your supplier's shoes to help understand how they will accept and meet the new requirements
  • Send advanced notification explaining expectations for their level of participation and commitment, timelines, benefits, and compensation (if applicable)

checkbox Offer education, assistance, and/or training to suppliers on how to meet your environmental standards

Examples to consider:

  • Interact directly with the pertinent supplier contacts
  • Offer training seminars or workshops
  • Share tools you have successfully employed
  • Offer assistance in the startup or transition phases
  • Establish a mentoring relationship
  • Offer to help bear the transitional costs

checkbox Conduct assessments and provide recommendations

(Also see Supplier Evaluation and Certification)


  • Review supplier and contractor facilities, operations, and policies; provide recommendations on improvement opportunities and ways to help meet your environmental requirements
  • Assess the products or services you purchase from the supplier or contractor. In the case of product assessments, additional information from second or third-tier suppliers may be necessary.
  • Provide recommendations for greening suppliers' products, or processes used to manufacture the product.

checkbox Offer technical support services and effective means of communication

Examples: Set up one (or all) of the following to provide needed support and answer supplier questions on meeting your environmental requirements

  • supplier environmental advisory council
  • web help screens
  • e-mail, hotline and/or other direct methods of communication
  • supplier listserv

checkbox Educate your customers and encourage them to support your efforts

Example: Volvo (see pg. 9, 10, 16) provides customers with environmental information on their products


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