The complexity of the electronics supply chain leads to a variety of sustainability issues, including unfair labor practices, presence of harmful chemicals and conflict minerals. Despite a push for sustainability from a few multinational electronics corporations – including Apple, Intel and Nokia – but it has been difficult to make enduring progress in eliminating dangerous practices in the supply chain. With diligent monitoring required throughout the entire supply base to combat this issue, the process of identifying and combatting slave labor and unfair worker rights throughout all tiers of the supply base is a daunting task for even the world’s most well-equipped electronics businesses.
The Supply Chain Is the Catalyst for True Progress
With the supply chain representing 50 to 70 percent of a company’s sustainable footprint, implementing sustainable procurement practices is the most effective method for making real progress toward sustainability. Through operating a responsible supply chain, electronics component buyers can work together with their suppliers to improve transparency in the global supply chain and reduce the consequences of unfair labor practices.
Sustainable procurement offers benefits for all parties – it delivers customers safe, ethically sourced products, and reduces overall supply chain risk. This helps buyer and supplier teams meet customer demands for transparency in the products they’re buying, and mitigates the impact of supply base disruptions. There are a few steps to keep in mind when implementing a sustainable procurement program.
Step one: Plan from the top-down
For sustainable procurement programs to be successful, buy-in from the C-Suite is a must. Aligning overall business strategy with the company’s sustainable mission creates a holistic sustainability philosophy that touches all company activities and operations. Buyers must map out supplier risks and see how much spend is invested in each of their suppliers, which will help them identify the suppliers carrying the biggest risks and determine which improvement efforts should be prioritized.
Step two: Leverage suppliers for a collaborative effort
Buyers should use all the resources and tools at their disposal, including employee training, supplier assessments, auditing and other remedy mechanisms in both their own operations and throughout their supply chains to help suppliers succeed. Investing in supplier education around the laws, regulations and sustainability issues affecting their business is key to all parties’ success. A more educated supply base and workforce are better equipped to ensure a sustainable supply chain.
Step three: Analyze, analyze, analyze
Electronics buyers should monitor the percentage of spend allocated to achieving sustainability criteria, the percentage of audited suppliers, the number of suppliers that have improved on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) metrics in the past 12 months, and the number of total indirect CO2 emissions in the supply chain, when looking at your company’s environmental footprint. With this data, electronics buyers gain deeper insight into their supply base, work better with suppliers to mitigate risks, and ultimately make smarter business decisions.
When business decisions and sustainability performance are truly interconnected, it affects behavioral change and performance improvements throughout the business and the supply chain. Electronics buyers play a key role in achieving sustainability initiatives. With trusted and solid networks of global suppliers, they are in a unique position to make real progress toward sustainability and facilitate a global electronics supply chain that is equipped to fight human rights violations, conflict minerals, and the presence of unwanted materials and chemicals in products. By focusing on the small steps the team takes each day, electronics buyers can fight the sustainability issues lurking within the electronics supply chain and make the world a better place.
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