ISM calls on supply chain professionals to be environmentally responsible

July 18, 2005
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is calling upon supply managers to leverage their key organizational roles to lead socially responsible behaviors

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is calling upon supply managers to leverage their key organizational roles to lead socially responsible behaviors that benefit the workplace and, by extension, the individual, the organization and the community.

ISM's Principles of Social Responsibility document, created for the supply management field, outlines professional standards in seven areas: Community, Diversity, Environment, Ethics, Financial Responsibility, Human Rights and Safety. The third principle, Environment, encourages companies and organizations to adopt environmentally sound practices for their own company and products as well as to promote environmental responsibility to suppliers. The goal is to implement environmentally responsible practices throughout the supply chain.

According to Carl Liles, C.P.M., director of enterprise management for Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, protecting the environment is at the root of many decisions that the Oklahoma-based company makes. "A portion of the energy we deliver is created from wind, a clean energy that won't pollute the environment," Liles says. "We try to model good environmental practices, and much of that is done with the way we do business with our suppliers and our customers, up and down the supply chain."

Adds Liles, "We even check to make sure any material we recycle and resell won't be used in an environmentally unsound manner once it's off our hands. Preserving the environment takes precedence in many ways. It's something we learned from the rural landowners and farmers who use the energy we produce. They have always been stewards of the land."

To measure current environmental practices, ISM's Committee on Social Responsibility conducted a survey of supply professionals. The report summarizes the results of a large-scale survey of supply managers representing a diverse set of industries across manufacturing, service and government/education sectors in each of the seven principles' areas.

A total of 1,163 organizations responded to an e-mail survey sent to 11,119 addresses, for a response rate of 12.5%. In general, responding organizations classified as manufacturing reported a higher level of involvement with environmental issues. The study also revealed that 51% of respondents have a written policy for employees, whereas 40% have a written policy for suppliers.

Although written policies are in place, currently 36% of respondents have little to no waste-reduction goals for their organization, and 53% of respondents said that their companies do almost nothing to challenge suppliers to commit to waste-reduction goals. The study shows that there is room for improvement regarding environmental responsibility.

The ISM Principles of Social Responsibility document provides the first step toward increasing supply management's role in improving the environment. ISM's Principles of Social Responsibility web page includes links to downloadable versions of the Principles of Social Responsibility and the Baseline Study, as well as links to Web sites relating to each of the principles and a list of companies supporting the initiative.

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