The long journey to sustainable procurement

By Mike Wallace

Bad news: Survey fatigue — already at significant levels — doesn’t seem to be improving. In fact, it could get much worse before it gets better. Good news: It could make our businesses more sustainable.

Anyone and everyone who examines his own sustainability performance, or footprint, quickly realizes that suppliers make up a big part of that footprint. This, in turn, leads the organization to realize that some sort of action on the supply chain is needed. This generally takes the shape of supplier codes of conduct, questionnaires, scorecards, surveys and/or supplier audit programs. Because everyone is in someone’s supply chain, we create a “circular loop” for ourselves. While complaining about survey fatigue, many companies turn around and subject suppliers to the very thing they complain about.

Tip of the transparent iceberg

It’s one thing for large-multinational corporations to do this, but when large public institutions start to explore sustainable procurement, we get a glimpse of the ripple effect. Federal, state and local governments, state universities and non-profit healthcare providers are assessing their own sustainability performance, which will lead them to assess their suppliers.

Whether you’re large, small, public or private, you are in someone’s supply chain and you inevitably will get that sustainability question. Are you ready to answer it?

Read more in our GreenBiz Shift Happens column here!

Transparency Is A Virtue

The European Parliament’s adoption of the directive for disclosure of non-financial information and diversity information marks the most recent example of how governments are valuing corporate transparency. Deputy Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Initiative, Teresa Fogelberg, said:

“This agreement demonstrates the EU’s strong commitment to corporate transparency and sustainability – supporting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and paving the way for a sustainable global economy.”

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a new version of the Report on Environment (the Report), outlining indicators that help the EPA monitor trends in the condition of the United States’ air, water, land, human exposure and health, ecological systems and sustainability. It is interesting to note that the EPA added sustainability as a new theme in 2014, responding to growing international concerns.  The sustainability theme only has one indicator as of now, but the EPA plans to develop this theme by collaborating with a variety of stakeholders and considering three important aspects of sustainability- intensity of energy use, water use and materials use.

Source: EPA Website

Source: EPA Website

The new version of the Report provides new features: a conceptual framework to show how indicators relate to EPA concerns, interactive graphing, statistical information, trends related to where you live, and information about what you can do to help. All of these tools and the Report itself demonstrate how the EPA values disclosure of sustainability information in order to manage environmental and human health concerns and to inform the public. The EPA invites public commentary on the new version of the Report until April 27, 2014.

What do these government initiatives for transparency mean for your company and its sustainability efforts?

  1. In general, government expectations for transparency will likely advance the sustainability reporting spectrum; newcomers will join the sustainability reporting bandwagon and advanced reporters will disclose more sustainability data and management approaches. Stakeholder engagement will likely incorporate government agencies and representatives as more regulations enforce transparency.
  2. In the United States, proactive involvement with the EPA through public commentary on the Report on Environment and other initiatives may become a source of competitive advantage. Companies can collaborate with government agencies to determine the trajectory of government sustainability initiatives going forward.
  3. For current sustainability reporters following the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework, the Report on Environment may help inform materiality assessments, including:
  • Prioritizing material topics, considering United States trends in environmental and human health issues.
  • Measuring influence on stakeholders: Companies may want to interview more stakeholders affiliated with the government.
  • Determing significance to companies: The role of government will become more significant to companies both in terms of risk and compliance to regulations and in terms of opportunities for government collaboration.

BrownFlynn is glad to see the international government support for and progression of sustainability reporting.  Join several United States government agencies at our next GRI-Certified G4 Training Course: GRI Sustainability Reporting Process April 23-24, 2014 at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Washington, D.C.


By Brittany VanderBeek, Analyst


TD Bank’s Diana Glassman Provides Insights on Environmental Employee Engagement

Does convincing your company’s leadership to embrace environmental practices, materials and services sound impossible?

TD Bank’s Head of Environmental Affairs, Diana Glassman, says that achieving executive buy-in for environmental initiatives is “a tough sell but not an impossible one.” Diana shares her experience with developing an environmental employee engagement program in her recent Entrepreneur article, Engage Employees When Launching a Workplace Environmental Program.  She discusses the importance of both tangible projects and individual actions, which are bolstered by engaging employees.  For example, she explains that “without green behavior inside the LEED-certified building, the investment may not pay off.”

Read more about how to implement tangible and actionable items and ensure an effective environmental employee engagement program here.

4H Graphic

By Brittany VanderBeek, Analyst

Ecosystem Imbalance: The Art of Native and Invasive Species

Sustainable or science art is a great tool to communicate complex scientific concepts to the public who may otherwise not be exposed to these issues. There are many opportunities to be creative, reduce your footprint and educate others through the use of discarded materials. Incorporating sustainability into my artwork is one example of how I live sustainably.

Inspired by the fact that many materials used in art are toxic, I began creating sustainable works of art in 2010. During my final semester double majoring in Sustainability and Studio Art at Baldwin Wallace University, I conducted an independent study in sustainable art to explore sustainable materials, subject matter and the use of art to educate the public on sustainability issues. Works of art I created during the study included:

  • A sculpture made from wood, seeds, and other plant parts
  • Sustainably-printed photographs featuring blended images of native species
  • Collages of invasive species made from invasive plant materials
  • An upcycled trash sculpture collaborative with “junkyard artist” P.R. Miller, also known as the Grizzled Wizard.

I found that while it was easy to create art with environmental messages, finding sustainable, quality materials was a greater challenge. Several types of printing processes, photo paper, and adhesives were tested before I found materials that were both high quality and sustainable. I have continued to create sustainably-printed native species photographs and invasive species collages, which are often exhibited together to deepen viewers’ understanding of the complex relationships between native and invasive species.

European Corn Borer, 2013 (Left) and Japanese Beetle, 2012 (Right)

European Corn Borer, 2013                        Japanese Beetle, 2012

Blended Native Species Photographs

The goals of the blended native species photographs are to:

  • Help viewers develop an awareness of species in their backyards to encourage local conservation efforts
  • Depict nature as a spiritual, inspirational, and regenerative place
  • Encourage the incorporation of native plants into gardens and landscapes by showing unique species they attract
  • Lessen the fear and dislike of invertebrate species by featuring their beauty and contributions to ecosystems
  • Show that photography can be both long lasting and sustainable

Images are printed by a company powered by 100% green energy on sustainable archival paper made from renewable bamboo fibers with a light fastness rating of over 100 years.

Luna, 2014 (Left) and Dogbane Beetle, 2013 (Right)

Luna, 2014                        Dogbane Mushroom, 2013

Invasive Species Collages

Invasive species are species that are introduced purposely or accidentally to an area they do not inhabit naturally, and disrupt the balance of local ecosystems by out-competing species that are native to the area. Most invasive plant species are pulled by hand and burned, or treated with herbicides. While working with the invasive plant strike team at the Cleveland Metroparks, I wondered if these plants could be put to better use by incorporating them into art to educate the public on the dangers of planting exotic (non-native) species in their gardens. Since individuals can play such a crucial role in the spreading of invasive species, I created this series of artwork to educate viewers on the damage caused by invasive species and to help individuals identify local invasive plant and animal species. All collages in this series are made with various invasive plant materials and are adhered with sustainable plant-based glue.

Red-eared Slider, 2013 (Left) and Asian Ladybird Beetle, 2013 (Right)

Red-eared Slider, 2013         Asian Ladybird Beetle, 2013

The most rewarding part of my art is that I help educate the community about issues that are local to Northeast Ohio that they can personally take action on. I currently display my work with other inspiring science artists at Art.Science.Gallery. In addition, I have been fortunate enough to present sustainable works of art as gifts to guest keynote speakers at Baldwin Wallace University, including David LaRue, Chuck Fowler, Richard M. Daley, Susan Solomon and other individuals powering the sustainability movement in Cleveland and beyond. So far, I have focused primarily on depicting invasive insects, but plan to explore invasive fish, bird, reptiles, and amphibians. With growing concerns that Asian Carp will invade Lake Erie, I plan to focus on creating works of invasive aquatic species in the Great Lakes. I have also been granted permission by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to collect invasive bird feathers to create collages for display in an educational capacity. I hope that my artwork inspires people to request native plants at local nurseries and discourages the sale or introduction of invasive or exotic species.

Photo by Jeffery Katzin, 2014

Photo by Jeffery Katzin, 2014

To view or purchase my artwork, visit The Scoff Patch Etsy Art Shop.

To learn more about local invasive species programs, resources, and volunteer opportunities, visit the Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio Invasive Plants Council and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources websites.

By Emily Bryant, Analyst


Greif Awarded for Sustainable Manufacturing Leadership

BrownFlynn congratulates our client, Greif, for receiving the 2014 Manufacturing Leadership Sustainability Award! As a world leader in industrial packaging products and services, Greif drives sustainable innovation with its DoubleGreen COEX 10-liter plastic jerry can. DoubleGreen is one of the first plastic jerry cans to be made with polyethylene resin derived from a renewable resource, sugarcane.

The DoubleGreen COEX 10-liter plastic jerry can has the following sustainable attributes:

  • Less production material due to Greif’s efficient manufacturing process, which reduces the shipping weight
  • A stackable design, which reduces the amount of packaging material during transport, decreases inventory management cost, requires fewer packaging labels and enhances the recycling process
  • UN Certification, meaning that Greif’s customers will not have to manage the UN Certification Process

Through sustainable investments, Greif reduces its environmental footprint throughout its supply chain, particularly with customers. IT Business Net highlights the following environmental benefits:

  • “The use of sugarcane ethanol is estimated to eliminate CO2 emissions by 1,390 tons annually.”
  • “The elimination of [DoubleGreen] carton packaging is estimated to save 3,643 trees and avoid 23 tons of excess CO2 emissions.”

Greif’s award represents how companies can incorporate sustainability into their business processes and product development to positively impact their triple bottom line. We applaud Greif’s efforts and look forward to seeing their positive influence on global manufacturing, the industrial packaging industry and other industries across the board.

By Margie Flynn and Cora Lee Mooney