Daily Archives: August 26, 2007

JLP Responsible Sourcing Part XI: Environment

In our last post, we discussed the environment, corresponding to section J of the report. In today’s post, we cover section K of The John Lewis Partnership‘s Responsible Sourcing Supplier Workbook, which covers environmental issues.

Considering the breadth of environmental issues – air pollution, water contamination, waste treatment, and energy use, just to name a few – you’re probably wondering why the JLP Responsible Sourcing Workbook devotes but a single chapter and this blog but a single post in the JLP series. It’s simple – of all the issues, this is the topic getting the most attention, in no small part due to global warming and tireless campaigns of a select few, such as that of Al Gore.

Although lack of environmental legislation around pollution and waste control is usually promoted as the primary problem, the real problem is, as it has always been (and I suggest you read A Brief History of Globalization by Alex MacGillivray for additional insight), industry and its thirst to be the victor at all costs. However, now that over six billion of us have populated the far reaches of the globe, we can no longer afford to do business at all costs. With the population expected to increase to nine billion before it levels off later this century, we have to start protecting, and saving the environment today. Unless technology rapidly advances to the point where we can colonize the ocean floor, inhospitable planets, and space, we’re out of room and out of time.

Although one would hope that reaching out to your humanity would be enough to convince you to trim your wasteful ways, history has taught us better. Thus, I’m instead going to point out what’s going to happen to your business pocket book if you don’t. Sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, those who don’t clean up their act are going to find themselves regulated or financially forced out of business thanks to consumer backlash and heroic efforts by forward thinking politicians such as The Governator.

More specifically, in developed countries, I am positively predicting that not only are conscious, educated consumers going to pay slightly more for “fair trade”, “carbon neutral”, and “environmentally responsible” products and services, but that, as more of these options start to spread across the marketplace, they are going to stop buying products that don’t fall into these categories. The media backlash when they discover your sweatshop in West Africa and your dumping operation in South America is going to pale in comparison to the beating your pocketbook is going to take when consumers simply stop buying your product. Furthermore, I am predicting that as these conscious consumer groups gain in numbers, we’ll start to see progressive politicians with a back-bone who will stand up and fight for what’s right, regardless of how many oil-barrons, automobile-manufacturers, and tobacco-peddlers they p*ss off along the way. And even though they may not win at first (unless Arnold can convince a few of his more radical well-known celebrity counterparts to also run as governors and senators), they will eventually.

(What boggles my mind is the fact that so many politicians are afraid to even suggest the imposition of tighter regulations because it will “hurt the big automakers, oil companies, and tobacco plantations that employ thousands and thousands of workers and damage our economy”. This is garbage. We can make better cars, process oil cleaner, and reduce the pollutants in cigarettes with our current technology. It might cost millions of dollars to upgrade the equipment to support cleaner processes and produce alternative fuel vehicles, but this does not have to hurt the manufacturers. Just like governments give big temporary tax breaks to natural resource companies to survey and develop new sources of supply, does not mean one could not apply the same logic and give companies a temporary tax break to cover their conversion cost, as this would help to ensure their success in the long run and prevent job loss. The problems they promote with their one-sided viewpoints don’t exist as they can almost always be solved with education, creativity, and a willingness to work toward a compromise solution with long-term goals.)

Some facts on the issue from the JLP workbook include:

  • CO2 levels have risen more than 30% since widespread fossil fuel use began and are at their highest point in 400,000 years
  • Air pollution is the cause of three major environmental issues: global warming, ozone depletion, and acid rain
  • A recent survey by the World Health Organization / United Nations Environment Program (WHO/UNEP) found that 10 of 11 major cities in the Asia-Pacific region exceeded dangerous levels of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) air pollutants
  • Approximately 300 Million Chinese drink unsafe water and 90% of China’s cities have polluted groundwater
  • In the UK alone, there were 661 pollution incidents in 2005 that had a serious impact on water quality

What do you need to do?

  • Comply with all local, national, and international laws and regulations
  • Make continuous improvement in environmental performance, regardless of what the regulations require
  • Make practical efforts to minimize use of energy, water, and raw materials and use renewable resources whenever possible
  • Minimize waste and dispose of any waste produced in an efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly manner
  • Avoid contamination of the local environment
  • Minimize chemical usage
  • Insure there is an up-to-date action plan in place to achieve these goals

This concludes our coverage of the ten major issues tackled in the workbook. There are, of course, more issues (such as animal welfare), but these are the ones common to every organization and the most generally applicable, so they are a great start. Our next post will summarize the series and provide some concluding remarks. (You can access all of the posts in the series (to-date) by selecting the JLP category at any time.)