Over the past four years, Reynolds has been building its environmental strategy, achieving certification against the environmental standard BS8555 in 2009. This accreditation milestone rewarded Reynolds hard work and encouraged further development; indeed, Reynolds is due to have its first ISO14001 audit at the time of going to press. The ISO14001 audit will predominantly focus on the business successful environmental practices, though it will also highlight are as in which the company can effect change.
As environmental standards become embedded within the business, Reynolds can begin to assess other areas. One such area is the environmental practices of its supplier base, where a positive impact can be made by first gaining a better understanding of current practices. Reynolds can then identify where it can offer support to improve existing practice, reward best practice and actively promote these suppliers.
The work undertaken by Marta Salvá as part of her MSc. Dissertation at the London Metropolitan University, aimed to gain a better appreciation of suppliers environmental practices and understand whether there are both qualitative and quantitative ways of assessing suppliers. the plan was to identify a range of suppliers who represent different fresh produce categories and to identify similarities or differences between their practices.
The categories chosen were:
Citrus: a worldwide importer of hard and soft citrus fruit, salad lines, and exotics
Potatoes: a supplier of fresh potatoes to UK supermarkets and foodservice
Prepared vegetables: a supplier of prepared vegetables for foodservice and manufacturers
Leaf products: processors and packers of ready to eat salad and vegetables
Lettuce: growers, packers and suppliers of organic and non-organic fresh produce goods
Apples: a supplier of packed and imported UK fresh apples and pears
The first part of the study was to agree on a range of sustainability indicators to show what practices suppliers currently had in place. A questionnaire was created to indicate environmental methods in the following areas:
Waste (including activities around waste streams, measurement, reduction and recycling)
Materials (reduction in raw materials and use of renewable sources)
Energy (reduction in energy use and use of renewable sources)
Emissions (reduction in greenhouse gases, herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers
Transport (outlining the proportion of import and export, whether food miles are measured and the type of fuel used)
Water (whether it is used in the process and whether there are any reduction strategies in place)
For some of the suppliers, a further calculation of their carbon footprint was completed using A Guide to PAS 2050, how to assess the carbon footprint of goods and services, 2008, BSI.
Evaluation of the results
As well as qualitative data, quantitative data was also evaluated. Quantitative data was plotted using a radar graph with the attributes evaluated.
Using a radar graph, a number of environmental criteria were plotted. On the graph above, the green line denotes the suppliers values, the red line denotes the average across the supplier base sampled and the blue line denotes best practice. By evaluating the difference between the blue, red and green lines, it is possible to determine areas where the supplier is stronger or weaker in a particular environmental practice. In this way, the green line shows an example of a supplier who demonstrated practice equal to the best supplier in packaging, purchasing, waste and transport, but was below average in onward stability, environmental management, emissions and water.
Dependant on the main focus of the business, best practice was identified over a number of areas of sustainable management. It was clear that the areas in which the suppliers were deemed to have the most environmental impact, and to an extent linked to cost, had the most environmental focus. By taking the best practice of each supplier, and the level of compliance in these areas, a profile of a preferred supplier, or best practice to aim for, could be assessed.
It is worth noting that the suppliers sampled are national companies supplying major retailers and that, even within these businesses, there were still areas of environmental improvements identified and being implemented. As with Reynolds, the awareness, understanding and implementation of environmental improvements is gathering momentum as companies see the commercial benefits of these practices, for example through reusable packaging or water reduction and, as a customer, we have an obligation to support suppliers where possible.
As well as gaining an understanding of current supplier practices, the study has helped Reynolds to understand effective ways of benchmarking suppliers and to gain a better idea of environmental practices at tender stage. This understanding has been used in order to work with suppliers towards their better overall environmental performance by identifying their strengths and improving any areas of weakness.
However, this is a pilot study, and a number of factors on environmental performance have to be taken into consideration. For example, suppliers with a high dependence on water would be expected to have a focus in this area. Furthermore, suppliers evaluated were those with a head office in the UK, since this enabled the work to comply with timescales available for the dissertation. Further work will be needed to identify, firstly, key environmental practices within the grower base and, secondly, how this can be evaluated in multiple countries.