At AT&T we know what motivates us to try and be a more sustainable company. It makes good sense for society and the planet – but also helps the business’s bottom line. That is why we look for ways to be more sustainable across the value chain, including encouraging our own suppliers to embrace sustainability. A few months ago we sent off the annual supplier assessment survey we use to measure our progress on scaling up sustainability. With initial results coming in, it is clear that our efforts are beginning to take hold.

Expanding sustainability to the supply chain involves more than integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into your RFPs. It means talking to your suppliers, listening to their concerns and helping them overcome obstacles by sharing best practices from your own experiences.

So how are we engaging with our suppliers on sustainability? It starts by highlighting the successes of our sustainability journey - including direct cost savings - which can help other businesses launch programs and see benefits as well. We also ask suppliers to adhere to Principles of Conduct, and use scorecards to gauge their progress. We even recognize companies that contribute to our own sustainability success through our annual Supplier Sustainability Awards.

Starting in 2009, AT&T began using an annual assessment survey to measure and score our suppliers on sustainability. The annual assessment, which is sent to our 500 largest suppliers (who make up a majority of our annual spend,) helps us understand our suppliers’ accomplishments and challenges. It also gives us an opportunity to collaborate with them to mutually improve performance on a wide range of sustainability issues, from human rights to environmental protection to alternative energy to cost-saving efficiencies.

In 2013, the average score for our suppliers was 63%. We knew we could do better, and set a target to reach an average score from our suppliers of 80% by 2017. Based on initial results for this year, our suppliers are demonstrating strong progress and showing that we are on track to meet our target.

Expanding sustainability to the supply chain involves more than integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into your RFPs. It means talking to your suppliers, listening to their concerns and helping them overcome obstacles by sharing best practices from your own experiences. We’re proud of our success as a company, but know that our impact can only expand when we go beyond our own operations and inspire other companies to join the sustainability journey as well.

About the Author

Stephen Bernard

Supply Chain Sustainability Program

stephen_berard

Stephen Bernard is an environmental engineer and sustainability professional with over twenty five years of experience in telecommunications and aerospace. He is currently a Senior Sustainability Manager at AT&T responsible for supply chain sustainability, developing and managing new policies and programs that build sustainable business practices into supply chain operations. He is an active member of professional associations focused on sustainable business practices, including program manager for QuEST Forum’s sustainability team. Steve enjoys driving his second hybrid car, this one a plug-in, after trading his first 2002 hybrid with it still running fine at 200,000 miles. He has supported science and engineering education as a state science fair judge for over 25 years.

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