Sustainable supply chains in the IT industry
04 April 2012

​The carbon footprint of communications and information technologies like PCs, laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic devices, is soaring. These technologies could become among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the future.
​Furthermore, according to a corporate emissions report published by McKinsey Quarterly, up to 60 percent of corporate greenhouse gas emissions originate in supply chains.

It is therefore reassuring to hear that two market leaders in the IT industry, Microsoft and Apple, have stepped up their commitments to sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with additional ways of tracking the sustainability performance of their suppliers.

Microsoft has begun asking selected suppliers to submit reports detailing their adherence to Microsoft’s Vendor Code of Conduct. The Code includes coverage of environmental and social issues such as business ethics, labor and human rights, and respect for intellectual property. These new reports will supplement Microsoft’s existing supplier auditing program by helping provide greater transparency on how key suppliers work to meet the standards set out in the Vendor Code of Conduct.

“This new reporting requirement is a very positive development for Microsoft,” says Steve Lippman, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft. “It helps to enhance our reporting on how we and our suppliers manage key corporate responsibility issues. We’re pleased if it sets an example that becomes more widespread across our industry.”

Beginning next year Microsoft will include a summary of information from the vendor reports in its annual Citizenship Report. Microsoft is also encouraging its suppliers to consider using GRI’s Guidelines for producing their reports.

Similarly, Apple focuses on the supply chain in its 2012 report, which includes a list of suppliers’ names. The report covers four areas: labor and human rights, worker health and safety, environmental impact, and ethics - all of which are highly relevant for decision making around suppliers.

Hopefully these moves by Microsoft and Apple to increase the transparency of their supply chains will encourage other players in the IT sector to look at their impacts – especially in the industry’s complex supply chains – and kick-start improvements.