In codes we trust

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Companies’ scrutiny of their own suppliers is beginning to show signs of improvement.

At an event organized by the Conseil patronal de l’environnement du Quebec, held today, a half dozen presenters – representing private industry (Bell, Desjardins, and Walmart) and government (MSDEP, Loto-Quebec, Public Works Canada) — shared the details of their responsible procurement policies with attendees.

The purpose, of course, is to achieve real gains in sustainability by purchasing environmentally friendly products and services, selecting appropriate contractors and including environmental requirements in a contract.

This can be done by drawing up Codes of conduct, which set out the standards organizations expect of their suppliers and contractors. It seems these Codes are finally beginning to move beyond vague promises to more detailed rules.

But credible enforcement of these rules is not easily achieved without proper inspections, preferably unannounced at the supplier’s facilities. Admittedly, getting those suppliers to agree to audits without warning is another matter, but larger clients can more easily make these kinds of demands.

Even so, getting suppliers to buy into green procurement policies will likely require an incremental approach toward imposing a Code of conduct. That might take time, sure, but one has to be realistic to ensure one’s business partners truly change their behaviour over the long run.