Guest Writer 300

3 steps to choose a sustainable supplier for your beauty business

By Guest Writer | 13 September 2023 | Business, Expert Advice, Feature, Health & wellbeing

Sustainable Suppliers

Charlotte Scallon, head of sustainability & regulation at waste management company, Biffa, offers a three-step strategy to help businesses understand how to choose a sustainable supplier

Choosing a sustainable supplier that helps you meet your goals can be challenging, but the process should be energising, not daunting. Our three-step strategy can help you break down the process into digestible steps, to find suppliers that share your values and goals.

Suppliers can be a significant aspect of the sustainable business toolkit, and the investment of time it takes to find the best ones is worth it now and for a greener future.

Step 1: Dissect your sustainability goals

The most important part of choosing a sustainable supplier is understanding what your business is trying to achieve. This means looking at your company’s sustainability strategy and measurements for success across, for instance, environmental impact, ethical sourcing, carbon footprint and waste reduction.

Recent data uncovered by Biffa, in partnership with YouGov, revealed that UK businesses employ a variety of means of measuring sustainability. The top three are reductions in carbon emissions and reductions in general waste (44%), and reductions in the volume of resources used (40%).

Businesses must set realistic metrics. It’s recommended that whichever measurements you choose are scientifically sound and achievable. Initiatives like the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) can help brands keep their ambitions targeted, and ensure they can collect and analyse the data they need.

Once you have clarity on your business’ goals, it becomes about putting these into practice. These goals should direct every action you take to improve your environmental or social impact, including your choice of suppliers.

Step 2: Understand how suppliers can help you achieve your goals

After you understand what your business wants to achieve, it’s easier to assess how suppliers can contribute to those goals. For example – if, like 39% of UK businesses, your sustainable targets involve increasing your closed loop recycling rates, it makes sense to look for suppliers that provide their products in recyclable packaging.

This understanding will help your brand develop clear sustainability criteria which suppliers must adhere to, helping you to meet your internal goals.

Researching and identifying the type of activities, policies and certifications which contribute to sustainability will help you narrow this down. Consider online databases, industry reports and trade associations to identify these.

Setting your criteria is the easier part; making it adaptable and achievable across your entire supplier base is more complicated. How you go about this will depend on your business size, scale and needs. Adjusting your approach to your supplier criteria will make sure that your suppliers’ targets will be achievable and can be evidenced.

Step 3: Invite suppliers to prove their credentials

Just as it’s essential to ensure your business can prove it is meeting sustainability targets, your suppliers need to be able to do the same. Assess suppliers’ sustainability performance by gathering information about their practices. This may involve crafting a series of targeted questions for them, or adjusting your assessment process to set expectations and gather data while taking proposals. You could also request information about suppliers’ performance metrics; review their policies, certifications and third-party assessments; request a site visit to see their environmental practices first-hand, or ask for examples of their recent sustainability initiatives.

A willingness to work together to achieve shared sustainability goals can greatly enhance the partnership between you and your suppliers.

This process can help you seek out suppliers who are willing to collaborate and share best practices for sustainability. It may also be worth considering how you can engage suppliers on evolving sustainability strategies, in particular those with tightening margins for success, to judge the relationships’ potential longevity.