Working with IBM? Prepare to share sustainability strategy

High-tech giant puts 30,000 supply chain members on notice. They have one year to define and publish sustainability goals.

IBM has been encouraging its business partners to think about sustainability for some time now, but now it is sending a memo to its close to 30,000 suppliers requiring them get with the act.

Under the new mandate, IBM is requesting that its suppliers more closely examine where business concerns intersect with business matters and set up voluntary conservation goals in three areas: energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management. What's more, IBM is requesting that suppliers disclose these goals publicly and, moving forward, to also publish their progress toward these goals on an ongoing basis.

Wayne Balta, vice president of environmental affairs and product safety for IBM, says since sustainability priorities are specific to each and every company, the technology and services giant isn't dictating what its suppliers should or should not do. Some of those affected, for example, may have as few as 10 employees. Some more of his thoughts about the mandate are found in this IBM blog entry.

So, if you're part of the IBM supply chain, your letter is in the mail. You have basically one calendar year to get with the sustainability program, or IBM may choose to change its relationship with you. If one of your competitors looks like its more sustainable-transparent than your team, you may find yourself displaced.

"We're not asking our suppliers to do anything that IBM itself has not done," Balta says.

In fact, he believes some of IBM's suppliers may find opportunities for innovation when doing their sustainability soul-searching.

First, Wal-Mart. Now, IBM. Two big industries -- retailing and high-tech -- are now on notice. Even if you're a small business, you need to incorporate sustainability and environmental in your core business strategy or you may find yourself starting to lose out on business.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com