In this age of food miles and fairtrade marks, customers want to know the origins of the goods they buy. But righteous claims can come back to haunt you - as the 'ethical' Primark learned when Panorama showed the world the children who make its clothes. The Advertising Standards Authority has reported a rising number of complaints about environmental claims - from 117 in 2006 to 561 last year. If it's hard to manage your own back yard, monitoring a global supplier network can seem impossible, especially when the economic climate demands you cut costs.
Assess what measures your suppliers have in place, then work out what you want to achieve. Start with easy stuff such as improvements in energy efficiency; and in the longer term, seek out suppliers with environmental management systems and those using sustainable sources or encouraging re-use of their products. Tell suppliers what you expect from them; by going green, they'll become more appealing to other clients too. Primark responded to its controversy by appointing an NGO in southern India 'to act as its eyes and ears on the ground'. Smaller companies can ditch the agents and work directly with their suppliers as partners. Put the right person in charge of it all - with a dash of enthusiasm, it will all seem a lot simpler.
Greenie points (out of 10)
Six: start off a chain reaction now.
- Dave Waller is MT's resident eco link.