Ever heard the phrase, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu”? It’s been used in the business world forever, but lately it’s been linked to the terms “green” and “sustainable,” and for good reason.
Important shifts that demand the attention of anyone looking to stay ahead of the curve in construction-related industries have taken place, including the growing momentum of the green building movement. The formation of the U.S. Green Building Council in 1993 and the prevalence of its LEED Rating System is nearly evidence enough alone.
For those in the building and specifying communities, this has meant taking a hard look at sustainability during the design and material selection process. For the building materials industry, including the precast industry, products are being viewed in a whole new manner. Sustainability is not on its way for the precast industry – it’s already here, and if you choose to ignore it you may find a growing shortfall of another kind of green.
What is a supplier scorecard?
When architects, engineers, contractors and project owners make a decision to go with a sustainable design, or are mandated to do so, it starts a chain reaction. They look not only internally but to those they work with, such as the precast supplier. From there, it continues to trickle down to every supplier involved in the project. One of the primary tools used to gather this information is a sustainability scorecard.
Industrial giants like Wal-Mart and major manufacturers like Procter & Gamble have used sustainable supplier scorecards for years in an attempt to measure basic supplier performance. Since that time, scorecards have spread to many other industries including construction and concrete. Supplier scorecards are essentially the core component to Supplier Performance Management (SPM). What this means is that businesses are looking for suppliers that will help improve their own sustainable designs. Through the surveys, they can ascertain an understanding of the products currently available and choose the ones that align most with their goals – in this case, sustainability.
For many of these businesses, cost is no longer always the determining factor. Instead, some are beginning to look at the triple bottom line, which links social, environmental and economic considerations. In many cases, it’s called the three P’s for people, planet and profit.
While many precast plants may have never received one, supplier scorecards are growing in frequency and it’s most likely only a matter of time. Recently, US Concrete Precast Group in Phoenix received a letter from long-term client SRP Procurement Services regarding the completion of a supplier scorecard. As a water and electric company, SRP is looking to its suppliers as just one of many tools it’s using to better its overall sustainability efforts.
The scorecard contains a number of survey questions, which in this case SRP will be using as part of its evaluation criteria for awarding contracts. The survey states, “SRP’s intention is to score our suppliers’ sustainability efforts and use this score as a measured part of future supplier selection.” Art Oros, an SRP representative, stated that this cursory scorecard is only the beginning of an overall larger process when looking at the supplier pool and their sustainability efforts. “We hope to better align with suppliers who share our views and importance on sustainability,” he said.
US Concrete Precast Group, which views this as a great opportunity, used the survey to stay ahead of its competition while further improving its sustainable initiatives.
More than 2,000 miles away in Ohio, Mike Hoffman of Lindsay Concrete Products has also answered sustainability questions about the company. One such instance came from a customer enrolled in the United Nations Global Compact.
The voluntary program looks at 10 principles concerning how companies do business, three of which focus on the environment. These three principles concern how businesses approach environmental challenges; how they undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and how they encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
Hoffman, who is chairman of NPCA’s Sustainability Committee, understands well the push for sustainability and is not surprised that customers are looking to precast plants for information. “Hearing about and experiencing an increase in companies gauging the sustainability of their suppliers is not shocking, given the trajectory of the green building movement,” Hoffman said. “It’s one of the most important shifts to hit the design, engineering, construction and building supply industries, and it’s only gaining steam. Eventually, decisions based on sustainability during design and construction will become commonplace and the precast industry needs to be ready to prove it’s the product of choice in this new landscape.”
While both US Concrete Precast Group and Lindsay Concrete Products are already ahead of the curve, they are continually looking for new ways to adjust, because both believe these supplier questions will continue to require additional details every year. Preparing yourself for these scorecards when they come your way may put you in a good position to earn a contract. And being proactive by creating your own scorecard to have your suppliers fill out may save you the headache of reacting to a last-minute request from a potential customer.