Mar. 30 2022

Sustainability has become one of the key issues of our time. And, as industries across the globe dial up their sustainability agendas on the back of COP26, as a leading authority we are urging organisations to work together with their supply chains to improve – rather than break ties when strategies don’t align – to maximise long-term gain.  

With concerns for climate change finally driving action, suppliers’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials are becoming more and more important when it comes to buyers’ decision making.  

In fact, a recent report by Barclays Corporate Banking found that more than a fifth (21%) of the UK’s largest retailers cancelled supplier contracts in the last 12 months (January 2021 – January 2022) on the grounds that they failed to meet desired ESG standards. The research also found that retailers are increasingly asking suppliers to join trade bodies and/or certification schemes to evidence they are meeting standards, with many suppliers failing to act as swiftly as their customers demand.

Julie-Anna Smith

South & West Europe Sustainability Services Leader

Bureau Veritas

Now, more than ever, the demand for suppliers to have their commitments independently verified by a competent third party is key to creating trustworthy ESG data to help buyers on their journey to reduce risk and improve their own ESG performance.

However, with a fifth of major retailers ending their contracts with suppliers prematurely, rather than working together with them to develop mutual ESG strategies, this could well be perpetuating that risk further – resulting in the need to source new suppliers quickly, and without the benefit of long-term understanding and partnership.

Working together with suppliers to develop ESG strategies, commitments and better action could be far more beneficial for long-term gain; allowing industry to help shape and support suppliers’ commitments, whether they are associated with environment, social impact or governance.

Interestingly, newly released data from CDP – the not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for organisations to manage their environmental impacts – shows that a little over one third of large corporates are actually engaging with their suppliers on the climate crisis. The data also reveals that just three per cent of those suppliers have approved and science-based emissions targets in place. And with half having no climate targets at all, there is a clear argument for industry to place a much greater role in working together with suppliers to escalate action and create long-term solutions.  

Julie-Anna added: “There appears to be an expectation that the supply chain must work in isolation to determine individual targets and to take action forward, however the benefit of working together to ensure ESG targets are set – and crucially met – far outweighs the risk of cutting contracts all together. 

“For any organisation, buyer or supplier, that wishes to steer their sustainability strategy on their own sites, assets or value chain, an independent third party such as Bureau Veritas can help support them in creating credible, long-term and sustainable commitments that meet the mutual expectations of existing partnerships.” 

To support decision makers in managing the implementation of their organisation’s sustainability roadmap, Bureau Veritas has created Clarity; a comprehensive suite of solutions which simplifies the ESG risk management process that will ultimately help steer a transparent and credible ESG strategy. 

Julie-Anna said: “Clarity provides the reassurance that sustainability commitments are grounded in evidence and concrete action, leading to a defined and long-term sustainability strategy.”  

Bureau Veritas works with organisations to meet increased sustainability expectations. This includes a range of services across the ‘BV Green Line’ of services and  solutions dedicated to sustainability, which are all aimed at supporting customers operate responsibly as the world transitions to a low carbon economy.