Best Practices to Designing an Effective Sustainability Program

By September 25, 2018General, Sustainability

This guest blog post is authored by Travis Miller, General Counsel at Assent Compliance.

As sustainability reporting becomes more common, it is also becoming increasingly critical to the long-term success of global enterprises. More companies are producing reports, causing additional strain on suppliers, who struggle to respond to multiple data requests that often don’t share a common surveying schematic. This problem can be exacerbated by lack of clear goal-setting and guidance from the company performing the due diligence.

Companies can remedy these issues in two ways: taking the time to design a sustainability program that satisfies best practices and relying on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards to streamline the ask on suppliers, allowing for improved speed and accuracy on responses.

Companies must respond to two central questions:

  1. What are they doing to influence sustainable practices in their supply chain?
  2. How are they reporting on progress?

If companies are not meeting minimum requirements, sustainability programs are likely to fall short. Your company could come under fire from external stakeholders for failing to take the necessary steps to keep your sourcing activities clean. Meanwhile, stakeholders are more forgiving of companies that deploy reasonable safeguards and practices.

Best practices to design an effective sustainability program include the following:

  1. Develop a program with an efficient due-diligence process and a detailed review workflow to examine suppliers and identify risk.
  2. Gain management buy-in and assign a senior executive to oversee the sustainability program, while developing progressive goals and milestones.
  3. Create a sustainability team that is independent, experienced and qualified, with resources relative to other company programs.
  4. Integrate your program with existing operation framework and global supply chain operations. Assign specific employees to ensure effective integration.
  5. Assess sustainability issues that are relevant to your suppliers’ industries and examine data to determine risk potential.
  6. Establish a process that enables your company to assess risk regularly and create an action plan.
  7. Verify all supplier information and develop procedures for investigating high-risk suppliers.
  8. Administer sustainability training programs to employees and suppliers and track and document the training progress.
  9. Review your program on an ongoing basis and document and report on year-over-year progress.
  10. Set objectives and expectations for suppliers and document how you engage, screen, monitor and manage supplier risk.

In the modern regulatory landscape, stakeholders hold companies accountable for the performance of their supply chains. A well-designed sustainability program can protect your brand’s image and proactively mitigate the potential for liability.

Travis Miller is an international trade and compliance attorney specializing in ITAR/EAR/Sanctions; global anti-corruption, anti-slavery, code of conduct, environmental, health and safety; product stewardship (RoHS/REACH/Conflict Minerals) and corporate social responsibility (corporate ethics, CSR/CDP reporting, SEC filings). He manages Assent’s worldwide legal activities, such as advising the board of directors on legal matters and overseeing corporate compliance, governance initiatives and other commercial transactions.

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