The case of poisoned students at the Changzhou Foreign Languages Schools in the Jiangsu Province of China has been a heated topic since revealed by the press. On 17 April 2016, the official China Central Television (CCTV) reported that out of the 641 teenagers that underwent medical examinations, nearly 500 suffered serious health problems such as abnormalities in their blood and thyroid gland, bronchitis, lymphoma and even leukemia, after their school was relocated last September on surroundings previously occupied by agrochemicals manufacturing factories.
Key findings so far reveal that toxic waste has indeed been buried and dumped on the site –Chlorobenzene, a carcinogen substance, has been found at levels exceeding almost 100,000 the national standards – and that the school went ahead with construction and started running classes prior to the issue of an environmental impact assessment report of the area – this is considered as a typical “construct prior approval” case in China.
The world is connected – so is your supply chain
As the investigations dig deeper, the three factories that have been identified by CCTV as responsible for the pollution will surely become internationally infamous. Through a simple internet search, any member of the public can swiftly find relevant information about the business relationship of the three factories, their owners and their products.
No company wants to be involved in such incidents that have inevitable negative consequences on reputation which can last for years, nor would any company like to discover through the press that one (or more) of its suppliers is involved in such an environmental disaster and hence be indirectly linked to these distressing events.
Companies without a well-established supply chain management system or that do not undertake regular assessment for their suppliers stand a relatively high risk in being linked to incidents of this kind.
Going beyond compliance: Prevention through performance management
Tackling environmental pollution is no easy task, especially in developing countries where environmental laws and regulations are not strictly enforced. In the absence of a strong legal framework, companies (especially those with large supply chains) have an even greater responsibility to ensure that they adopt a proactive approach within a comprehensive environmental management system that encompasses all stakeholders.
It is possible to achieve effective pollution control by setting up appropriate environmental policies and targets; investigating and identifying the risk levels and impacts from operations; implementing suitable and prompt measures to reduce the environmental impacts from business operation at the source; continuously monitoring and assessing critical control points; and regularly reviewing the whole management system for improvements. This complete Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle should be recurrently and continuously executed for the company’s environmental management system.
Comprehensive environmental management goes beyond compliance in order to ensure sustainable development. A preventive approach allows early detection and reaction to identified issues, hence reducing potential negative impacts to the environment.
Mitigating exposure to risks
EcoVadis’ goal is to help companies who face these kinds of risks to keep their exposure within a safe and acceptable level through a thorough and efficient CSR assessment and ratings platform. Companies are using EcoVadis’ supplier CSR Scorecards to monitor sustainability performance as well as identify strengths and areas that need improvement. As such, companies are able to not only reveal the high risk suppliers in their supply chain, but also provide the feedback and structure to start driving improvements in the internal CSR management system of those suppliers, to prevent such disasters from occurring in the first place. Learn more at https://www.ecovadis.com/
This article contributed by:
Kelvin Chum and Timothy Chan
CSR Analysts at EcoVadis
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