The Three Pillars of Supply Chain Sustainability

12 Jul 2016 | Stephen Bernard & Swathy Ramaswamy

Tagged: Planet, Product Life, Caring for the Planet,


Implementing sustainability across one large company is substantial feat on its own. Yet for AT&T, we are not just working on sustainability at our own company but trying to embed sustainable business practices at hundreds of companies all at the same time. That is part of what it means to work on supply chain sustainability, from setting a goal to reduce our customers’ emissions 10x our own footprint, to setting goals to reduce energy intensity at our operations, to working with our suppliers to ensure they are living up to the standards we have set for ourselves. 


At AT&T we have identified three key pillars that we see as critical to successfully moving the ball forward on the supply chain sustainability journey: Information, Recognition and Collaboration. 

  1. Information. Every year, we send out a supplier sustainability assessment that asks the companies we work with to provide data for a range of sustainability-based key performance questions. The scorecard data from these assessments is used to evaluate our suppliers and helps us look for ways to improve as we work toward our 2020 goal of integrating sustainability performance metrics into sourcing decisions for 80% of our spend. 
  2. Recognition. We also want to elevate the visibility of suppliers doing great work. Since 2011, AT&T has recognized excellence amongst suppliers in sustainability categories such as process improvement, energy efficiency, environment and packaging through our annual Supplier Sustainability awards. This year we honored the award winners at the AT&T Supplier Conference to publicly highlight the great work that these winners are doing and challenge others to work even harder.
  3. Collaboration.  Finally, we know the value of working together with our peers. AT&T has long been a member of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) to promote sustainability in information and communications technology (ICT). We also have been working with QuEST Forum on measuring and sharing supplier sustainability best practices.   Lastly, we recently joined the Joint Audit Cooperation (JAC), which facilitates collaboration among peer Telecom companies and ICT suppliers to verify and audit supply chains on areas such as labor practices, human rights, health and safety, ethics and the environment.


Focusing on these three key pillars, AT&T has been driving change by learning more about what our suppliers are doing, recognizing companies who are leading the way and working with our peers to drive better economic, environmental and social performance in the supply chain. It’s no easy task, but it can result in meaningful change.


About the Author

Stephen Bernard & Swathy Ramaswamy


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.

Swathy Ramaswamy, AT&T Senior Sustainability, Quality and Process Manager. In Swathy’s role on the supply chain sustainability team, she supports AT&T’s efforts in advancing sustainable business practices throughout the supply chain across areas such as packaging, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, labor practices, conflict minerals and more. She is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and has worked in a multitude of functions at AT&T including quality management, inventory planning and project management.