How Can Companies Reduce Carbon in Their Supply Chains?

May 8, 2013
  • Nate Springer

    Former Manager, BSR

  • Ryan Schuchard

    Former Associate Director, Climate Change, BSR

Nathan Springer, Associate, Advisory Services, BSR; Ryan Schuchard, Manager, Climate and Energy, BSR

As manufacturing grows in far-flung regions of the globe, the size of carbon emissions in company supply chains continues to increase. There is a significant opportunity to reduce these emissions—as some companies have done, and others are starting to do.

Next week, BSR and the World Resources Institute will host a workshop in Washington, D.C., with more than 50 companies and organizations to explore three questions about the potential for carbon emissions reduction in the supply chain:

  • What is the relevance to companies of supply chain carbon reductions?
  • What is the role of business in reducing supply chain emissions?
  • How do companies effectively reduce supply chain emissions in China and other emerging markets?

What is the Relevance?

Supply chain carbon management is a major corporate sustainability priority. Today, hundreds of companies are managing supply chain carbon impacts with thousands of suppliers through the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) supply chain program, industry forums, and individual initiatives.

At the workshop, WRI will share initial results of its recent survey of 124 companies with US$1 billion or more in revenue on the relevance of emissions reduction to their operations. We will also hear from participants representing consumer products, manufacturing, and other sectors on their answers to key questions, including: What supply chain emissions reductions have they captured to date? How do they make the case internally to invest in supply chain emissions initiatives?

What is the Role of Business?

Corporate performance expectations are on the rise, and customers, investors, NGOs, and governments are asking companies about labor and environmental practices in their supply chains. Yet many companies struggle to achieve emissions reductions.

BSR has worked with hundreds of companies and their suppliers since 2008 through the Supplier Carbon Performance Initiative. We will share our insights, including the “Three A’s for Improving Supplier Climate Performance,” and ask participants about the role of their companies. Some questions we will explore include: How can companies use existing measurement tools such as GHG Protocol and life cycle analysis to reduce emissions? What stories and lessons do companies have on driving real supplier carbon reductions?

How Does It Work in Emerging Markets?

China surpassed the United States and became the world’s largest carbon emitter in 2006. Emerging markets provide a leading opportunity for supply chain efficiency for many companies, yet progress is beset by cultural, technical, and business-practice barriers.

BSR will share our six factors for structuring successful engagement with suppliers, based on work with Walmart, Starbucks, Electrolux, and others on their supply chains in China. We expect to learn more from participants on their experiences in Asia and other emerging regions, including: What are the enabling factors for success others are seeing in China and elsewhere? Are there any best practices that can be used across different emerging markets?

We are looking forward to hearing from companies next week and also to sharing the outcomes from the workshop—and some answers to these questions—in a follow-up blog. Stay tuned—and feel free to share your company's experience with carbon reduction in the supply chain in the comments field.

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