- The U.S. Natural Resources Defensse Council (NRDC) and the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) in China on Thursday launched the world's first map publicly linking multinational corporations to their suppliers' environmental performance.
- The Green Supply Chain Map so far includes the suppliers for Target, Esprit, New Balance, Puma, Gap and Inditex. A mix of publicly available data from the Chinese government, the IPE’s database, and the map itself thus offer real-time data and historical trends in air pollution emissions and wastewater discharge for those suppliers.
- The map allows users to see exactly how specific brands' supplier factories are performing, in addition to the most recent thirty-day data on emissions and discharges, information on corrective action, and voluntarily disclosed annual emissions numbers.
China and the U.S. may be bickering over steel and trash imports, but achieving supply chain visibility is a global issue.
It's notoriously hard for companies to manage their overseas suppliers, especially when attempting to go beyond the first or even second tier. Worker abuse from modern slavery to employee death is not uncommon, while thorough factory investigations are increasingly complex and unsuccessful. One of the few effective methods used to track sourcing thus far has been the effective use of data to increase transparency across the board.
The joint initiative by the NRDC and IPE is the latest effort, with a twist: the map, built by two non-profits, is publicly sourced and available.
Securing brand, factory and government participation is no easy task. In fact, the organizations encountered many challenges in its inception.
"Many dozens [of companies] were approached to join the inaugural map, and only six of them agreed to do so, " Linda Greer, senior health scientist for NRDC told Supply Chain Dive.
Still, the coalition expects the new map to kick off a trend of greater transparency through a wealth of similar efforts.
"This information can ultimately lead to a much better understanding of what is 'average' performance — and top and bottom performance," Greer said. "What is an egregious problem? What is an insignificant problem? Over time, the very granular information we can collect on day to day and week to week operations will help the industry to establish informal 'norms.'"
She added the NRDC and IPE are already looking to expand the tool to include less developed countries, such as Vietnam.
"The tool can be very helpful to countries as industry comes into their borders — to track environmental performance in a real time, cost effective way."