Corporations worldwide increasingly are asking prospective vendors to show measures to ensure environment sustainability when responding to proposal requests. Supply chain sustainability experts addressed this trend at a recent forum organized by the Green Initiative Committee of the National Minority Business Council Inc. Citigroup Inc. hosted the forum, which took place on March 27, the eve of Earth Month.
“It makes good business sense to be attuned to the fragility of our planet’s ecosystem,” said Michael S. Robinson, president and CEO of New York Staffing Services and chair of the NMBC’s Green Initiative Program. “Living and working in a global economy presents greater opportunities for businesses of all sizes, but it also presents greater risks for generating more packaging waste, an excessive carbon footprint, more demands on natural resources, and for cranking up the virtual thermometer of global warming.”
Robinson is the author of One Hundred Pennies: The Importance of Small Businesses in a Healthy Economy (Microbin), a guide for small businesses for navigating government bureaucracy, weathering dips in the economy, and embracing new business practices, including supply chain sustainability.
Michael Jones-Bey, director of Con Edison’s Supplier Diversity Program, said, “Not too long ago, purchasing professionals were considered clerks and passive participants in the supply chain. Now, major corporations compete based on the effectiveness of their supply chain. With the new emphasis on sustainability, companies that are able to reduce energy, waste and water not only have a positive impact on society, but also on profitability.”
Kevin “Dr. Trash” Lyons, assistant professor at the Rutgers University Business School, who specializes in supply chain management and marketing strategies, recalled that his interest in supply chain practices stemmed from his experience as a teenager in the U.S. Air Force. Working in procurement, he became interested in what the Air Force was buying, and from where and why it was buying what it bought. Companies can’t keep mass producing products and entering them into the supply chain, utilizing raw materials for their production and for getting them to their destination, without negative consequences on the environment, he noted. Current business practices have to be changed, such as reducing the amount of water used in manufacturing and using self-disposing packaging.
“There is a financial benefit for small businesses to be on the horizon of the next generation of alternative packaging technology and materials,” Lyons said. “Partner with other small companies to set up a sustainability strategy to add value to your organization as you go after multimillion-dollar contracts. Show them how you will help these larger organizations reduce their environmental impact.”
As vice president of energy and sustainability at BNY Mellon, Drew Schechtman helps to develop and implement the organization’s international sustainability strategy, which includes measuring, reducing and reporting on the global investment company’s environmental impact. “What do we invest in? Are we being socially responsible? What are the products that BNY Mellon buys? We have to be able to talk to investors in the company about this,” Schechtman said. “We are doing sustainable things at BNY Mellon, but we also have to be marketing them to our customers and investors. Small businesses also have to take on this responsibility at their company. At BNY Mellon, we have accountability for all aspects of our impact on the environment. If our contractors don’t have sustainability certification documentation, they need to get it.”
Citigroup has similar expectations of its vendors, who must respond to a 26-point supply chain questionnaire to show that they are engaged in sustainable practices, said I. Javette Hines, Citigroup’s senior vice president of supplier diversity.
Marjella Alma, manager of external relations for the New York regional office of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a nonprofit that promotes economic, environmental and social sustainability, noted that 100 percent of European companies issue sustainability reports, compared to about 50 percent (up from 19 percent in 1990) of companies the United States. Of the 50 percent, however, only 10 percent have their data verified by third parties, she said.
A key goal of the forum was to create awareness among NMBC members of their responsibility to the environment as they expand their business beyond the borders of their traditional marketplace, said John F. Robinson, president and CEO of the NMBC.