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Feeling the Pressure of Sustainability?

This is Part 1 of 4 in the sustainability series brought to you by Lisa Peterson, a sustainability consultant at Aftan Engineering who specializes in helping companies become compliant.

Part 2: The Alphabet Soup of Sustainability: Making Sense of the Acronyms
Part 3: SEC Proposed Amendments Potentially Impacts Supply Chain Companies
Part 4: Kicking Off Your Sustainability Journey

Have you had a phone call from a customer or perhaps a board member who mentioned the word “sustainability”, suggesting that something needs to get done? You are not alone. Conversations about sustainability are becoming more and more common throughout the supply chain.

Environmental health ≠ Sustainable

Sustainablity Tree v2-01

Before we dig into ways to demonstrate sustainability, let’s first consider the word “sustainability.” People often think that sustainability is only about the environment or ecological health. But if we only focus on the planet and do not maintain focus on people and profit, true long-term sustainability is not likely. When something is sustainable, it means it can be maintained at a certain rate or level. So, to maintain a certain rate, in other words to be viable and survive, we need to think about the big picture. Focusing on the environment at any cost, without regard to stakeholder need, is not sustainable.

Sustainability reporting and certifications

Corporate sustainability reporting can take various forms. Sometimes it is a stand-alone report that a supplier sends to their customer, other times it is incorporated into the company’s annual reports, and sometimes sustainability information is just put on a company’s webpage for any interested party to read. The details of the report depend on the “customer” of the information, like banks, shareholders, employees, customers, or the community. Any stakeholder might have interest in the topic.

Most of the large corporate enterprises are already documenting and reporting on sustainability because investors are demanding it. Over the years, the medium and small enterprises who are in the supply chain of the large enterprises are now being challenged to also report on their sustainability initiatives. The large companies and their investors see a benefit to involving the entire supply chain because it has become important to their customers and their shareholders.

The focus of these reports can include things like carbon management, resource management, labor risk, supply chain risk, product quality, product safety, material impacts on financial metrics, and so forth. Remember this is not just about the environment. The goal of sustainability reporting is:

  • Enhancing Performance,
  • Mitigating Risk, and
  • Continually Improving.

The field of sustainability includes various standards, frameworks, and methodologies that are used for reporting. As an alternative to reports, there are also certifications that are used. Each option has its own acronym which can become very confusing. What is similar for each report or certification is that highly quantitative and data driven processes are used, meaning that the reports are auditable. And when something is auditable, it gives investors, or users of the information, higher confidence in the reports.

So, don’t be afraid of sustainability reporting. Embrace the opportunity to tell your stakeholders what you are doing, how you are continually improving, and why you should be their preferred supplier.

About Aftan Engineering, LLC

Aftan Engineering is a company based out of Pennsylvania that specializes in Sustainability and Continuous Improvement challenges. Led by Lisa Peterson, they offer services pertaining to Sustainability, ISO 14001 Compliance Preparation, Lean Six Sigma, Continuous Process Improvement (Manufacturing Optimization), Supply Chain Management, and 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing).

Feel free to contact us or Lisa directly for more information about a sustainability compliance consultation or for any inquiries and/or questions. 

Lisa A. Peterson, PhD, P.E.

Written by Lisa A. Peterson, PhD, P.E.

Lisa Peterson, Ph.D., PE, MBA is the President of Berks County-based Aftan Engineering. Lisa is a uniquely qualified professional consultant in Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Social Governance, Continuous Process Improvement, and an expert in ISO 14001 Compliance.