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Supply chain management

Many other companies will be involved in meeting the demands of your own company for energy, materials, goods and services. All these companies will have their own impacts on biodiversity, and you could be a significant influence in ensuring that companies in your supply chain minimise their impacts on biodiversity and make positive contributions to conservation where possible. Thorough engagement with biodiversity issues means evaluating your impact on biodiversity through your supply chain and working with suppliers to improve their environmental performance. Practical steps can vary from screening suppliers to fit a template of good biodiversity practice through to active support of the businesses in your chain in moving towards more wildlife friendly operations. Any method carries with it a resource implication and the possibility of increased costs. For example screening out potential suppliers will tend to reduce competition. This has to be balanced against the gains to be achieved from demonstrating sound management of biodiversity across all aspects of your business.

Where possible, you should seek to work with other companies in your sector and beyond to pool expertise and resources and develop joint solutions to biodiversity issues related to common supply chains. Below are some examples of how companies have started to address biodiversity issues in their supply chain.

British American Tobacco sources tobacco from many thousands of small tobacco farmers, which dry the tobacco using wood-fuelled ovens. British American Tobacco's Souza Cruz subsidiary in Brazil has an extensive agricultural extension worker network which encourages farmers to reduce pesticide use and grow trees for fuel. Recently, in recognition of biodiversity needs, the company has changed its policy to require a proportion of trees planted to be native species.

Each year approximately 20,000 hardwood and 70,000 softwood sleepers are used in renewal works on UK railways. In 1996, Railtrack signed up to an agreement supported by the WWF 95+ group to purchase timber products from sources certified to the independent Forest Stewardship Council standard. The FSC is a global initiative to protect and enhance the world's forests through independent forest certification and 'chain of custody' tracking of timber from the forest through its final product. B&Q also use the FSC certification process.

In a recent survey to assess environmental standards in the hotels to which it is sending holiday makers, British Airways Holidays specifically requested that its hotels answer a question on land management and whether planting in hotel grounds was appropriate to local biodiversity. This was designed to broaden the hotels' environmental understanding from areas such as waste minimisation and water use which are typical in eco-hotel surveys.

Business in the Environment have produced a number of publications on greening the supply chain. For further information, click here.

Photo Credit: Peter Wakely/ English Nature

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