Greening Your Supply Chain
Many companies have begun evaluating the environmental impacts of their suppliers. Perhaps you are a supplier to another company and have been asked to assess and report your environmental impact. You can also request that your suppliers evaluate, report, and improve their environmental impact. Working closely with your suppliers can have significant impacts on your bottom line. Below are some ideas for both you and your suppliers to consider:
- Reduce your waste by employing inventory management practices
- Decrease scrap and material losses, thereby reducing costs
- Reduce your use of hazardous materials
- Convert waste products to by-products or reuse them in another process
- Reduce packaging on raw and finished products
For more ideas about working with your supplier, see MnTAP’s fact sheet, Questions to Ask your Supplier.
Clean and Green When Outsourcing
Extending your company’s environmental efforts into contracts for cleaning services is a challenge. Purchasing may be mandated to select the lowest bidder. Then, the contract goes to the cleaning service using the least expensive products which in some cases are more toxic, flammable and corrosive-all words that flag opportunities to reduce pollution. What to do?
Start with SDSs
When contracting out cleaning services, require material safety data sheets (SDSs) for all materials brought on site. “I review the SDSs to find out if the cleaning contractor plans to bring anything really nasty into our sites,” said Jim Oukrop, health and safety administrator for Health Partners’ 30 health care facilities. Once when reviewing SDSs, Oukrop flagged an unacceptable spot cleaner and gum remover. “I required the contractor to switch to an alternative that was not full of VOCs [volatile organic compounds] for this type of cleaning.”
Test “green” cleaners to ensure they are effective. When testing, educate people about the health and environmental benefits of the alternatives so they can be comfortable with any changes.
Mark Galloway, St. Paul City Hall Annex building superintendent, has worked with his contractor to test numerous alternative cleaners. “Tenants complained that they couldn’t smell or see the disinfectant,” said Galloway. Although odors can indicate harmful fumes and dyes are unnecessary and may be allergens, people were accustomed to them as signs that the space was cleaned.
The Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide reviews cleaners (section 10.2) and provides environmental and performance rankings for products tested for the State purchasing contract.
When soliciting contract proposals for janitorial services, specify the names of environmentally preferable products or ask for their equivalents. Or, you can specify general criteria, such as aqueous or low VOC, to guide vendors in choosing cleaners. Once you’ve selected a contractor, periodically follow up with them to assure environmentally preferable products are being used.
This information originally ran in the 2001 Winter issue of the Source.
Resources for More Information
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: The Lean and Green Supply Chain [PDF 7.71MB]
- Material Handling Industry of America: The Green Supply Chain
- Green Supply Chain Network
- U.S. EPA Green Suppliers Network