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Data Drives Down Carbon in the Electronic Supply Chain

Though people always talk about the weather, no one ever does anything about it. To some extent, that is also true about climate, even for those concerned about climate change. Doing something requires more than awareness. It requires a plan, and mapping out a plan begins with information about current practices. A new partnership is aimed at the getting to the starting point with data from more companies involved in the electronic supply chain.

At the end of February the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) announced a partnership to increase greenhouse gas reduction greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting from companies with the ultimate goal of developing means of reducing emissions. The partnership begins with data gathered from companies from April 1 to July 31, 2015 that the two will report on for gauging GHG throughout the supply chain. The start date correspond to what the EICC put down for its latest Code of Conduct for “standards on social, environmental and ethical issues in the electronics industry supply chain” and Validated Audit Protocol (VAP).

 “Through this partnership with CDP, we aim to have more electronics suppliers reporting on greenhouse gas emissions than ever before, develop the strongest supply chain GHG emissions mapping of any industry, and help our members with their own supplier benchmarking and reporting so they can drive cost-effective GHG reductions,” said Rob Lederer, executive director of EICC, in an EICC press release.

With more attention being directed toward carbon emissions, agencies like the CDP have been able to get more data on company behavior than ever before. The CDP's 2014-2015 Supply Chain Report number represents “the largest ever set of such data” on climate considerations applied to production. It was based on information gathered through its 66 corporate members that requested carbon consideration data from their 6,503 suppliers. Responses came in from 52% of the companies approached, which amounted to 3,396 global companies.

In general, even while greater participation appears in the numbers and even greater commitment in words, actions seem to lag behind goals, according to the report's figures. For example, emission targets appear to progress in terms of goals for companies but not in terms of actual implementation. In 2012, 39% of suppliers reported on setting emissions targets. The number rose to 44% in 2013 and grew even more to 48% in 2014. While that looks like steady progress, the numbers hold steady at 22% for both 2013 and 2014 with respect to the suppliers' reporting on actual implementation of carbon reduction programs. The percentage of those using “procedures to tackle climate change” also has remained fixed at 62%.

Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism. Improvement is not only possible but feasible with the benefit of digital technologies. As the report, says, they enable “connectivity, intelligence, scale and speed” in the supply chain. Connectivity is key to fostering “transparency, traceability, real-time information exchange and collaboration between partners in supply networks.” That digital advantage can really work for the progress in the electronic supply chain to bring together data, insight, and cooperative solutions.

It all begins with accurate reports, according to the CDP. “No meaningful assessment and management of climate change risk can be attempted without an accurate picture of the emissions footprint of an organization, preferably using standardized methodologies and with third-party verification,” the company said in its report. That's precisely why it sees a great benefit in the partnership that promises to deliver more information on organizations with its own benchmarks applied.

In the EICC press release, Dexter Galvin, head of CDP's Supply Chain said “In the past year, suppliers reported 3.5 million metric tons of carbon reductions directly as a result of customer engagement through our program,” He predicts that the partnership with “the leading supply chain CSR organization in the electronics industry,” will result in “data-driven insights for the industry.” 

It takes many steps to get from data to workable solution; the partnership is intended to set out the map for that journey.

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