Shippers and other freight transportation interests looking to assess their environmental impact have a new electronic tool to filter their exposure.
Ceres, a Boston-based environmental advocacy organization comprised of investors, companies and public interest groups, this month launched the Supplier Self-Assessment Questionnaire, an online service designed to assist companies and their suppliers in identifying, assessing, managing and disclosing supply chain sustainability risks (The Boston-based group has no affiliation or relationship to New Jersey-based terminal operator Ceres Terminals.).
The SAQ, developed in consultation with other global sustainability organizations, asks businesses to collect general company information, along with specific information about environmental, social and governance policies and practices. Questions on the environment, for example, address monitoring and tracking of energy consumption; on-site energy audits; total annual measured greenhouse gas emissions; wastewater treatment; transfer, treatment and disposal of waste; and packaging reduction, reuse and recycling.
The SAQ is intended as a conversation starter, a point of engagement between companies and their suppliers. By incorporating sustainability into a broader initiative that includes governance and human rights, it hopes to raise the bar for corporate sustainability performance, said Amy Augustine, Ceres’ director of corporate programs.
The questionnaire aims to go beyond the traditional approach of focusing on whether a particular supplier or facility is complying with certain minimum standards or codes of conduct related to treatment of workers or environmental impacts. The risks associated with sustainability — regulatory, reputational, legal and operational — are serious, and companies can’t afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening in their upstream supply chains.
“Companies are expected to own and disclose the performance of their suppliers whether it relates to the human rights of their work forces or greenhouse gas emissions from their operations,” Augustine said.
A Ceres study, “The Road to 2020: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap to Sustainability,” assessed the sustainability efforts of 600 major global corporations in terms of governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance. Although a small number of companies have taken leadership roles, commitment to sustainability is generally tenuous, and subpar performance is still the norm, the study found.
“The good news is that there are pockets of corporate sustainability leadership, companies that are making significant strides toward becoming truly sustainable enterprises,” Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, told The Guardian earlier this year. “The bad news is that most companies have barely begun the journey toward sustainability and remain stuck in outmoded ways of doing business.”
The Investor Network on Climate Risk, directed by Ceres, represents a group of more than 80 institutional investors from North America managing approximately $8 trillion in assets.
The year 2020 wasn’t an arbitrary choice for Ceres’ sustainability targets. The choice is both recognition of how long it takes to implement the changes and strategies that are necessary to build sustainable supply chains, and an acknowledgment that climate change poses significant and urgent risks to business and society. “We saw 2020 as a critical milestone for the changes that need to be achieved,” Augustine said.
Contact David Biederman at firstname.lastname@example.org.