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Request environmental performance information from suppliers

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Your company has made the decision to green its office, and may have an environmental purchasing policy in hand. Now it’s time to move down the line and see if the suppliers your company buys its copy paper, computers, toilet paper, and other office supplies from measure up to the green task.

How to request environmental performance information from suppliers

  • Put it in writing. Depending on the eco-sophistication of your company’s office product suppliers, you may want to first send out letters explaining the company’s move to green its office products and outline the qualities you’d like to see in the products. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a sample letter that might be sent to paper suppliers. Your company will decide how formal and complex you want the environmental performance report from your suppliers to be. You might want to develop a form for suppliers to fill out, such as NRDC’s Paper Product Fiber Verification Form. The forms can get quite detailed. Or you may choose to screen suppliers on their environmental performance and use a point scale to judge their answers and to rank them.
  • Work with suppliers. Give suppliers a chance to make green changes to their products if they don’t initially meet your new criteria. The results may be slower than you’d like but consider the big picture: the product they're greening will be purchased not only by your outfit but by others as well. You might also aid suppliers by giving them a list of chemicals and materials you don’t want to see in the products you buy from them.

Requesting environmental performance information from suppliers helps you go green because…


  • Your company is assured that any green claims that suppliers make about their products are verified. This way your company knows its move to green the office will truly help lessen its impact on the earth.

A company wanting to green its office a decade ago would have had a much tougher time than it will these days. Not only has there been a huge leap in the amount of green office products available but suppliers increasingly can provide information about the environmental performance of their products to help buyers make purchasing decisions.

In fact, suppliers of a whole host of products are beginning to go even further and embrace the concept of green supply chains. A recent study done by the Aberdeen Group found that of the companies surveyed, 41 percent have had green supply initiatives in place for a year or two and 39 percent revamped parts of their supply chain to make them green.[1] The Carbon Disclosure Project is working with mega corporations such as Dell, Proctor & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and others to assess carbon emissions from their supply chains and to offer them a standardized way to report this information. And in April 2008, giant IT leader HP became the first company in the electronics industry to make public the list of its top suppliers. HP hopes other IT companies follow its lead in increasing the transparency of supply chains.

All these efforts will percolate down and make it easier for offices interested in going green to receive environmental performance facts from suppliers. Continued pressure may be needed, though, as a recent survey of 600 directors at large firms found that two-thirds have not enacted a green supply chain policy.[2]

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