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If you were asked to choose between clean air and clean water for future generations, which would you select? When you or your company purchases a product, each selection presents an opportunity to respect the environment. A flood of green products is pouring into the market. Certifications offer guidance in greening the supply chain for those purchasing products in the business sector. Understanding the implications of these criteria will help you make more sustainable choices.

This following list of questions may be used as an internal checklist or with the product sales representative before you make a purchasing decision. Keep in mind the explanation may be more complex than yes or no.

  • Are the company’s manufacturing plants ISO 14000 certified?
  • Does the company track its energy and water use annually?
  • Is the amount of waste measured during manufacturing? How much goes to the landfill? How much is diverted from the landfill?
  • Is the company working to reduce CO2 and other emissions? What is their carbon footprint?
  • Does the company purchase or generate any energy from renewable sources?
  • Does the company recycle throughout the products’ life cycle?
  • What natural resources go into the making of the product you are purchasing? Are there better alternatives?
  • How does the product’s life expectancy compare to competitors’ product?
  • Does the product fulfill your needs as well as being environmentally benign?
  • Does the company publish a sustainability report or offer information on its Web site regarding environmental and social initiatives and activities?
  • Does the company partner or support causes that benefit the environment and communities?
  • Does the company disclose the good and the “in progress/needs improvement” efforts it is making related to the environment?

Being informed allows you to make choices based on economic, environmental and social equity considerations. Multi-attribute certifications are a useful tool in making comparisons. The next time it seems that a supplier is creating obstacles or making you choose between clean air and clean water, remember you can have both! You are the instrument of change. Asking difficult questions and demanding informed responses is part of the transparency required to maintain a green supply chain.

Bill Gregory,
Director,Sustainability for Milliken & Company, USA

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