Image courtesy of Thinkstock

Making the Most of Customer Sustainability Requests & Social Responsibility Audits

Blogger: Marcella Thompson, Resources Sustainability Director | Omaha, NE, USA
June 08, 2016

It’s hard to say how many sustainability-related questions and surveys from customers I’ve responded to about policies, goals and performance. Likely hundreds. Early on, it was just a few here and there, but over the years, the requests have become more frequent and increasingly complex. This is a reflection of a greater emphasis on sustainable sourcing, and is an example of how organizations are extending their environmental and social responsibility commitments beyond their walls.

It’s a topic that I can commiserate with our clients about since they manage these requests from their own customers. We sometimes wonder why these questions seemingly come out of nowhere, often with “we needed this yesterday” deadlines. We also share the same dream of standardization instead of the reality that although the requests are from different customers, they are asking questions about more or less the same issues.

So while our clients’ customers are rightfully taking steps to more actively manage the sustainability of their supply chain, how can our clients simplify the process so it’s more than yet another checkpoint in doing business? We at HDR work with our clients to do just that by developing programs and processes to:                                                                                                                                    

  • Bring the right people together to address the breadth of issues that are part of their customers’ sustainability requests.
  • Create processes to ensure that local teams are ready for social responsibility audits; the time spent in advance will pay dividends in terms of preparedness and efficiency.  
  • Build resources to clearly communicate the depth of their programs, such as easy-access virtual libraries that give structure to the often tedious effort of gathering information.
  • Conduct a retrospective management review to highlight customer expectations and to identify trends and emerging issues.
  • Prioritize their efforts to focus on managing sustainability requests that have the greatest impact on their business.

Too often we handle customer sustainability requests and never look back. Taking the time to see these not as individual efforts, but as a bigger program, allows our clients to identify opportunities to improve efficiency and do more than just answer questions. Leveraging this customer-driven effort provides a window into important insight, and creates a platform for a meaningful dialogue on how their organization fits into the sustainability value chain.

Interested in reading more? Check out this link: