Use your buying power for good!
I was recently asked to comment on O2’s sustainability programme for TheEcologist.com –
it hasn’t appeared yet, so maybe I didn’t say anything newsworthy enough you can read it here. What I did say said was O2 had hit two of the three big sustainability buttons bang on – internal performance and providing low carbon services to their customer base. But on the third, the supply chain, I felt they were saying all the right words, but not making the same big, concrete, ambitious commitments. This is a big opportunity missed – there are a raft of sustainability issues in their supply chain from carbon emissions to conflict minerals (as O2 acknowledges to its credit).
The buying power of the big brands is immense. If they say “jump”, their suppliers say “how high?”. You can see this in the food and fast-moving consumer goods and food sectors where the much maligned big shed supermarkets are now driving sustainability through their suppliers. Hands up who wants to get de-listed by WalMart or Tesco?
And new Apple boss Tim Cook is currently lancing the boil of working conditions in Chinese manufacturers. Apple was targeted by campaigners as it was the sexiest brand with most to lose, despite being just one of a plethora of brands to use such companies. But with Apple’s brand profile comes plenty of buying power – if Cook asks, he will probably get. If the other brands put their head above the parapet and ask for the same thing, the suppliers will have no alternative but to comply.
For smaller companies, with less oomph in their wallet, reforming suppliers is not really an option – but you usually have a choice with which you can add your weight to the big picture move to greener supply chains.