Supply chain body says businesses must end ‘greenwashing’

UK businesses must end a culture of sustainability half-truths and engage with their suppliers to fully understand and communicate their environmental impact, says the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS).

The CIPS has welcomed a plan by the Competition and Markets Authority for a full review next year into misleading green claims. It also calls on business to ensure procurement teams are involved in creating and signing off the sustainability claims made by businesses.

CIPS spokesman Malcolm Harrison said: “There is a culture of ‘simplify to sell’ when it comes to sustainability claims which has to end. This move from the CMA should go some way to ensuring businesses understand and address the messy reality of their environmental impact throughout their supply chain.

“Modern supply chains are long, complex and travel through many countries around the world, so most businesses’ environmental impacts are not immediately visible.

“The CMA’s new Green Claims Code is a step forward in ensuring that more businesses involve procurement teams in their sustainability strategy. Measuring carbon footprint is not the only key indicator when reporting sustainability impact, and supply chain managers are the professionals capable of tracking a product’s environmental impact through the product life cycle.”

Much of the UK’s environmental impact is generated abroad, several tiers down the supply chain in the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing of products and transportation. Despite this, however, CIPS research has found that 1 in 5 (19%) of UK supply chain managers said they were not involved at all in their organisation’s sustainability strategy, while 43% said they were only lightly involved.

Consequently, almost half (48%) of supply chain managers in the survey did not believe their organisation is transparent enough with consumers, clients and regulators about sustainability. The survey, of 318 UK supply chain managers, found that 19% do not even know how sustainable their products are themselves*. However, only 5% felt their business actively misleads clients or customers about sustainability.

* 14% of respondents who selected ‘don’t know’ were removed from this question.

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