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Driving Your Supply Chain to ISO 14001 Compliance

Being ISO 14001 compliant is of major importance to many businesses these days, and the positive effect that compliance can have on the environment is huge (see this article to find out about benefits of implementing ISO 14001: 6 Key Benefits of ISO 14001), but these can be negated if your supply chain is not environmentally aware and following good practices. In an ideal world, all organizations would be ISO 14001 accredited, but this is not always the case. So, how do we ensure that our supply chain’s behavior and performance do not have a negative effect on the environment?

The effect of your supply chain on the environment

ISO 14001 states that an organization should “give consideration to the environmental performance and practices of suppliers,” so while it is clear that an organization has responsibilities to control a supplier’s performance, it is not specific in terms of what goals and objectives should be set. What is obvious is that if your organization is environmentally aware and ISO 14001 compliant, then you have the responsibility to make your supply chain as environmentally efficient as possible. So, what is the best way to achieve that?

Establishing objectives and measures for your supply chain

Depending on the nature of your business and its supply chain, you may have many environmental considerations and aspects to consider (see this article for examples about identification and evaluation of environmental aspects: 4 steps in identification and evaluation of environmental aspects), and they may range anywhere from a carbon footprint to potentially damaging emissions, and anything in between. It may be sensible to ask your supplier to identify and quantify its environmental aspects themselves, with your input. From there you can identify how your supplier’s environmental threats match with your own, and identify opportunities to improve, as well as threats. You can then establish key performance indicators for your supplier and ask that they report results to you at agreed intervals. It is then possible to assess and have control over the environmental impact of your supply chain, and it is also good practice to have these results reviewed by your own environmental team.  So, now that we have visibility of our supplier performance, how do we maintain and improve it?

Maintaining your supply chain’s performance

If you are familiar with the ISO 9001:2008 standard, you will be familiar with the concept of continual improvement and also the “plan-do-check-act” cycle. Managing the performance of your supply chain in environmental performance can take a similar form, that is, a combination of the two concepts. Monitor the results they provide, analyze them, and ask for suggestions for continual improvement. Having knowledge of your supplier’s environmental aspects, you will be well placed to suggest improvements also. Document these accordingly, and measure how performance is affected. Hold review meetings at agreed intervals, and given the increased reliance on risk management in the forthcoming 2015 standards (see the article Risk Management in ISO 14001:2015 – What, why and how? for details about risk management), ensure your supplier has internal processes in place to identify and mitigate environmental risk, and the ability to drive documented corrective actions if required.

Or, even better, why not show them the benefits of being ISO 14001 accredited and convince them that having the standard is better for all stakeholders – and the environment, too?

Use these free materials to control implementation of ISO 14001 so you can plan activities toward your suppliers right from the beginning.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.