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Turning sustainability opportunities into action: part 1

 

Leadership and relationships in manufacturing

I’m passionate about helping manufacturers understand their value chain responsibilities and guiding them to achieve their sustainability goals. I’ve just got back from factory visits in Northern Spain, bursting with inspiration, and I’m ready to share real, practical help.

As a manufacturer, you are probably being bombarded by sustainability questionnaires from customers who may themselves be reacting to questionnaires.

You may be struggling to collect the information that you need to respond to these requests whilst also trying to make progress on your own companies sustainability journey.

Unfortunately, you and your customers are upstream within the value chain of customers, retailers and consumer brands. For those businesses, you and your business form the foundation of the sustainability claims that provide differentiation within the market.

The first step to addressing these challenges is to galvanise your leadership around the need for action. Terms like “climate change” are hard for CFOs to grasp. However, if you use the concept of Responsible Business and the opportunities that this can bring, you are more likely to get attention. Once the leaders want to do something, your job becomes easier!

Questionnaires that you receive may be on environmental topics like carbon / energy or societal issues; such as ethical trading, or matters of company governance like legality of claims based on your information. Some questions you will be able to answer independently but many will require the input of your own suppliers with the inherent risk of delays because the suppliers’ data is incorrect or you contact the wrong person for the wrong topic.

Focus on building great relationships with your suppliers. Providing you do, they will tell you what is changing or who is taking responsibility for your products within their organisation. This enables you to:

  • Keep accurate contacts and this opens the door to accurate product data; and
  • Target your communications, such as your requirements and guidance, correctly through an accessible supplier portal.

Once you understand the power of a people-centric foundation to your sustainability approach and have a practical plan in place – explained in the Simplifying Sustainability webinar - you will start to feel more relaxed about your sustainability journey and able to make begin making progress against your sustainability goals.

In part 2 of this blog set, I will show you how to set sustainability goals that are relevant to your business.

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Cheryl Hall

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