Supply chain sustainability

As a professional services firm we purchase fewer materials than businesses in many other sectors. However, we spend more than £650m with suppliers each year so we strive to influence our sustainability impacts beyond our direct operations where we can. It’s an important part of our commitment to do the right thing, and, as a principle, we try to only ask suppliers to meet standards that we’d be willing to meet ourselves.

Our approach

We’ve identified a number of ‘key’ suppliers to form the basis of our programme, based on spend, potential impacts, and other operational factors. Together, these suppliers account for the majority of our managed spend.

A small proportion of these key suppliers provide strategic, bundled services that are critical to our business operations, so we collaborate with them to find solutions to specific sustainability challenges. Often, this involves innovating and pioneering new methods or technologies together, to deliver a step change in our performance. This has been particularly evident in relation to our BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ offices, where our collaboration has led to new technologies and processes relating to energy, paper, water and waste.  We’ve also worked with key suppliers to include social enterprises and apprentices in their provision of services to us.

We actively encourage the rest of our key suppliers to conduct their businesses responsibly. We use an annual survey to gather insights about our suppliers’ approach and performance, reviewing the questions each year for relevance and to incorporate any feedback. 86% of our key suppliers responded to our survey in 2017, exceeding our five-year target of 80%.

We also hold forums for key suppliers to help them build their knowledge and capability to improve their sustainability performance, and in recent years have run sessions on human rights, social mobility, social enterprise and measuring carbon emissions. Where appropriate, we bring in experts from our client Sustainability and Climate Change practice or from third parties, who can share best practice.

 

Engagement

We actively encourage the rest of our key suppliers to conduct their businesses responsibly. We use an annual survey to gather insights about our suppliers’ approach and performance, reviewing the questions each year for relevance and to incorporate any feedback. 86% of our key suppliers responded to our survey in 2017, exceeding our five-year target of 80%.

We also hold forums for key suppliers to help them build their knowledge and capability to improve their sustainability performance, and in recent years have run sessions on human rights, social mobility, social enterprise and measuring carbon emissions. Where appropriate, we bring in experts from our client Sustainability and Climate Change practice or from third parties, who can share best practice.

Commercial integration

We also focus on embedding relevant sustainability considerations with key suppliers throughout our procurement activities - from developing Requests for Proposals (RfPs) and evaluation criteria, through to contract schedules, service level agreements and ongoing relationship management. This demonstrates to suppliers that sustainability considerations are important to us, and helps to hold them to account on sustainability. It also encourages them to proactively propose new ideas and solutions.

We also focus on embedding relevant sustainability considerations with key suppliers throughout our procurement activities - from developing Requests for Proposals (RfPs) and evaluation criteria, through to contract schedules, service level agreements and ongoing relationship management. This demonstrates to suppliers that sustainability considerations are important to us, and helps to hold them to account on sustainability. It also encourages them to proactively propose new ideas and solutions. We'll continue to build relevant sustainability requirements into our commercial arrangements as they renew.

Risks and opportunities

Our business can only be as sustainable as the products and services we purchase from our suppliers, and by choosing to do business with them we’re implicitly supporting their business practices. So, our suppliers’ performance can impact our reputation by association.

On the other hand, many of our suppliers are also a source of technical insight and potential innovation, so they represent a useful resource in tackling particular sustainability challenges. Collaborating with them on such initiatives represents an opportunity to deliver tangible improvements which yield mutual benefits, whether reputational or financial. Some of our key suppliers were instrumental in helping us to achieve our ten year environmental results between 2007 and 2017. This also helps to instil pride in our people, who want to work for an employer that is socially and environmentally responsible.

Measurement

We set a number of long-term, public targets in the areas of supplier engagement, commercial integration and responsible procurement, and we’ve published progress against them each year in our sustainability scorecard. We’ve also summarised our overall five-year performance against these targets in our 2017 Annual Report.

Programmes

Fair business

We strive to be a ‘fair customer’ and to pay promptly, providing performance meets the terms agreed. For several years we’ve had a target to pay invoices, on average, in less than 30 days. In 2017, we achieved an average payment period of 29 days. Going forward we’ll be reporting in line with the Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance regulations.

We’ve also been an accredited Living Wage Employer since 2011. We introduced the London Living Wage for supplier staff in 2006 and extended the concept to our regional offices in 2008, before aligning with the National Living Wage when it was introduced in 2011. This means that supplier staff working permanently at our London sites currently receive at least 44% above the UK minimum wage, and 24% above it at regional sites.

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Human rights & modern slavery

As a leading professional services firm, we’re committed to respecting and upholding internationally recognised human rights. We focus on areas in our suppliers with the greatest risk of human rights infringements, and have detailed our policies, governance, risk management approach and related reporting in our Human Rights and Modern Slavery Statement. We use our annual supplier survey to understand how many of our key suppliers have their own human rights policies in place. In 2017, 66% reported that they have policies on this aspect of their business.

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Low carbon economy

We’ve made fantastic progress in reducing the carbon footprint from our direct operations, achieving a 77% reduction in our Scope 1 and 2 emissions since 2007. However, our total impact analysis shows that carbon emissions are the biggest environmental impact in our supply chain, so for several years we’ve engaged with our key suppliers to measure, report and set targets for reducing their emissions.

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Circular economy

Having achieved zero waste to landfill in 2012 we challenged ourselves to think differently about the materials we use in our business. We’ve made great progress in progressively adopting the principles of the ‘circular economy’, by reducing consumption, and increasing the proportion of materials we divert to reuse or recycling. We’re also exploring circular solutions for the products and services that we purchase, as our waste and materials programme extends from our core operations to those of our key suppliers.

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Social enterprise

We’ve supported social enterprises for many years, including contracting with them as part of our supply chain, and in 2016 signed up as a founding member of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge. This aims to harness the spending power of business to support start-ups that have a social or environmental mission, providing jobs for disadvantaged groups.  In 2017 we spent £1.5m with more than 40 social enterprises.

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Contact us

Jeremy Willis

Tel: +44 (0)207 804 8330
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