Environmental Management Systems – Your A – Z guide

Greening the Supply Chain the Acorn Way

Managing the environmental performance of your supply chain has never been more important. Driving down costs through good environmental management has been well recognised by many environmental managers – but mainly in their own internal activities and processes. The need to engage supply chain partners in similar win-win environmental management is compelling, but the tools available to achieve this have never been readily to hand. This is where the IEMA Acorn scheme scores such a big hit, the merits of its use as a supply chain tool have received government recognition, particularly in the provision of customer assurance on supplier achievements.

Acorn provides early recognition of environmental performance improvement as organisations embark on EMS implementation. Unlike ISO 14001 and EMAS, where the rewards and recognition are achieved at the end of the process, Acorn provides reward opportunities as participants work through the implementation phases.

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ aspects of ISO 14001 and EMAS have been complemented by a scheme that recognises that, for some organisations, progressing to such a high level straight away is daunting and sometimes more than they require. But more than that, through Acorn Inspections, there’s an opportunity for supply chain partners to provide independently validated information specific to you as the customer – helping to ensure that the environmental issues that you’re interested in are being properly managed and improved, but without the pain of you having to conduct the audits.

DEFRA has also recognised the value of the Acorn approach to supply chain management, incorporating accredited recognition against different phases of BS 8555 (i.e. Acorn) as an environmental reporting KPI for supply chains. So by implementing Acorn through the supply chain, you’ll be able to report on your supply chain environmental management activity in a way that your stakeholders will be expecting.

How Can I Use Acorn?

Acorn allows you to set the level of achievement required by a supplier. Different suppliers might be set different Acorn Phase to achieve based on factors such as their environmental risk, the complexity of their operations, the nature of the goods and services they are supplying, and their scope for environment and business improvement.

The value of Acorn is that you can differentiate between different groups and types of supplier, plus you have a ready made scheme with a clearly recognisable certificate to verify that they’ve achieved your desired outcomes without you having to audit each company individually.

Verified Environmental Information

In addition to setting the Phase level for your suppliers, you may also want to specify that certain environmental performance criteria have been achieved. This might relate to the organisation or the product/ service that they’re supplying.

Examples could include the resource and energy efficiency of the supplier, the presence of hazardous materials in products, or information to support you complying with the WEEE and RoHS directives.

The way it works is that, at the time the Inspector undertakes a site visit to check that the requirements for the relevant Phase(s) has been met, the organisation can required that the Acorn Inspector validates data related to operational or product environmental characteristics. The data that is validated will then be included as an annex to the Inspection Report and be signed by the Inspector. The organisation can then send copies of the validated data to their customers as appropriate.

  • Proof of supplier performance
  • Smart, flexible and resource efficient delivery
  • Risk based management approach
  • Reduced environmental liability
  • Standardised base and national recognition
  • Extended management capability
  • Proven methodologies
  • IEMA support documentation
  • Updates
  • Early recognition
  • Environmental and business benefits
  • Staged process
  • External evaluation of progress
  • Nationally recognised scheme
  • Assurance for all key customers
  • Ability to spread the cost
  • Control over entire process
  • Value added perception
  • Takes distress out of 'distress purchase'