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EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership

Leveraging Third-party Programs for Supplier Outreach

Organizations can seek third-party programs to bolster their internal supplier outreach programs. Such external programs can maximize efficient use of resources by helping companies request and analyze emissions information from suppliers and then provide suppliers with additional tools to develop their own GHG inventories and manage their GHG emissions.

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Build Collaborative Initiatives to Engage Common Suppliers

More and more industry groups and trade organizations are collaboratively engaging with their suppliers and sharing best practices. Creating sector-specific initiatives to collect data from common suppliers and helping them manage their emissions can reduce reporting and data management burdens. Suppliers that are shared by many organizations need respond only once, and in a single format, to a request to report their GHG emissions inventories.

Leverage Programs that Disseminate Common Questions Across Industry Supply Chains

There are quite a few platforms emerging where suppliers can collect and/or view information from organizations within their supply chains. Some of these are the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP), the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange, and the Global Reporting Initiative.

The CDP Supply Chain initiative is a unique program that sends questionnaires to suppliers as requested by participating organizations in different industry sectors. As of August, 2016 this initiative represents 89 supply chain members, upwards of 4,000 companies and $2tn in purchasing power1. Organizations can become CDP Supply Chain members and then identify which of their suppliers across industry sectors should receive the questionnaire. CDP collects the requests from all nominating participants, cross-references the suppliers, accounts for multiple requests from organizations intended for a single supplier, and then ensures that each supplier receives only one questionnaire. Suppliers can specify whether their information can be shared with their requesting customers or made public, protecting any confidential information.

The Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) also offers member companies a secure, online database to store, share, and report information on their supply chain. SEDEX provides suppliers with an online questionnaire on a broad range of topics such as labor, health & safety, and environmental standards.

The Global Reporting Initiative presents the most widely used standards for sustainability reporting, including reporting on a company’s supply chain. The GRI guidelines provide examples of relevant information and data to collect from suppliers and presents a framework for identifying importing suppliers and reporting on the impacts of a company’s supply chain.

Examples of Sector-Specific Engagement

Trade groups and sectors are collaborating to engage common suppliers and share best practices. CDP provides one venue where companies in key sectors throughout the world are using a common questionnaire and platform to engage suppliers.

Using CDP as a framework, members of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), a group of multinational electronics manufacturers with common sustainability tenets, developed and piloted a standardized approach to measuring and reporting on key GHG, water, and waste indicators. Through the EICC Environmental Reporting Initiative, the companies developed a standardized questionnaire and a reporting system that allows suppliers common to multiple customers enter their data only once and specify which of their customers are permitted to access the information.

Another example of a collaborative industry initiative that collects information from common suppliers is the Electric Utility Industry Sustainable Supply Chain Alliance (EUISSCA), which is comprised of the 16 largest utilities in the United States. American Electric Power (AEP) nominates its key suppliers to answer EUISSCA's common supplier questionnaire, which contains 36 questions—one of which asks suppliers how they are managing their GHG emissions. On behalf of EUISSCA, a third party compiles and analyzes the information for the participating utilities and makes the information available if suppliers permit it to be shared with their customers.

Other organizations such as the Global Social Compliance Programme and The Sustainability Consortium are developing standards and tools for manufacturers and retailers of consumer goods.


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