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Here’s how your business can source sustainable materials

Business owners often wonder how they can start transitioning to green business practices without impacting their bottom line. One solution is to start sourcing sustainable materials.



We hear the phrase “going green” a lot, but what began as a fad has quickly turned into a societal necessity. Business owners often wonder how they can start transitioning to green business practices without impacting their bottom line. One solution is to start sourcing sustainable materials. Let’s take a closer look at this practice, and see what you can do as a business owner to help make your business more sustainable in the long run.

1. Look at your supply footprint

The first step is to analyze your supply footprint. How many of your supplies come from outside sources? Your supply chain can represent between 50 and 70 percent of your overall sustainability footprint, so it’s important to take a close look at your suppliers.

The move toward global sustainability has also fostered increased transparency across a variety of industries, gently pressuring suppliers to reveal the sources of the raw materials they are selling. This movement is positive for managers and business owners because it makes it easier to remove suppliers that are sourcing their materials using unethical or unsustainable means.

2. Do your research

Step two is to research your suppliers. The transparency we mentioned a moment ago could help make this step a little bit easier. Ask each supplier you use to identify the source of their raw materials. For example, wood should come from sustainable forests that aren’t damaging to the environment. Aluminum and other metals can come from recycled sources — sourcing aluminum from recycled sources and scrap only uses 5 percent of the energy it would take to smelt the raw metal.

3. Use a pre-qualification questionnaire

Before you sign a contract with a new supplier, consider implementing a pre-qualification questionnaire new potential suppliers can fill out. Ask things like:

  • How do you comply with local environmental regulations?

  • What environmental management practices do you use?

  • What buying practices do you use?

  • What is the environmental impact of the product?

  • What are your environmental aims and social goals?

  • Do you identify your social responsibility concerning sustainable materials?

These are just a few sample questions to get you started. You can customize your pre-qualification questionnaire for the specific needs of your business.

Pre-qualification questionnaires can help you make a better decision before signing on a with a new supplier. (Source)

4. Work with them

If sustainability is your goal, but you already have an established relationship with some suppliers who aren’t as sustainable as they could be, you don’t necessarily need to cut ties with them. If your supplier is interested in becoming more sustainable, work with them to help them increase their environmental friendliness. It isn’t your responsibility to change their policies or shape their products, but if they want some help to create a new and more sustainable business model, offering it can help you as well.

5. Ask your customers

Consumers are consistently looking for more sustainable products to use in their homes and businesses—and are often very informed about the sustainability of different companies and suppliers. Before you make any significant changes, talk to your customers and get their opinions on your current suppliers or any you are considering a contract with in the future. You might be surprised at the kind of information they are willing to supply.

At the same time, make sure you’re considering the kind of sustainability your customers are looking for. Consumers as a whole have become more eco-conscious, and their spending habits reflect that.

Sustainability is no longer an option. To succeed in the current economy, it is quickly becoming a necessity. If you are concerned about your suppliers, take a closer look at them, and carefully review any new suppliers before you sign a contract with them. Industry-wide transparency makes this much more straightforward, but it still requires some legwork on your part.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance technical writer and the editor of Schooled By Science, a blog dedicated to discussing the latest scientific news and discoveries. She regularly contributes to IMPO Magazine, American Machinist and Cerasis. When she isn't writing, Megan enjoys going to the gym, watching MARVEL movies or curling up with a good book.