Why should distributors ask if their vendors have corporate sustainability initiatives?

Larger corporations, municipalities, schools and universities are more apt to seek sustainability initiatives from suppliers. This will enable them to integrate their suppliers’ programs into their own sustainability initiatives. — Linda Silverman, president, Maintex, City of Industry, California

Two-fold answer: First, it is the distributor’s vendor’s responsibility to put its distribution partners in the best position possible to make sure its product offering meets all current and future customer requests. Some of the customers’ requests now are extending into the vendor/supplier. Customers want to know who they are and what they stand for. How do they mold their business? What is important to them? Second, ideally customers concerned about sustainability would like to select a distributor whose internal initiatives reflects or exceeds their same level of commitment to sustainability. They also would like all the product they purchased to be aligned with a manufacturer whose own initiatives reflect or exceed their level of commitment. — Ryan Banks, vice president of sales and marketing, Brady Industries, Las Vegas

I’m not sure that a distributor needs to ask the exact question regarding a “corporate sustainability initiative.” It can be seen as being judgmental. Many companies have a beautifully written “mission statement” with values that have not been promoted or ingrained in the culture of their team. I would rather look and ask about the action that they’ve taken to be better stewards of the planet and help them with what we’ve learned. I would also ask them for their expert advice on what we can do better. I think we’re all better off when we realize that we can work together to get things done. — Charles Moody, president, Solutex, Inc., Sterling, Virginia

It is important that we all work to preserve the world we have, so we do ask our manufacturers what are their initiatives. It is always a great story to pass on to our clients. — Belinda Jefferson, president, Hercules and Hercules Inc., Detroit

There needs be some connectivity between manufacturers, distributors and end users to achieve a supply chain that promotes sustainability. If I’m an end user, I’d like to know whether I’m supporting a company that “talks the talk” or “walks the walk” when it comes to sustainability. We look for relationships with manufacturers that have “put their money where their mouth is,” so to speak. One hand care manufacturer built its new facilities to qualify for LEED certification. Another uses more sustainable packaging or it has reduced the need for packaging. Yet another now uses readily biodegradable, plant-derived chemistry in its products.

Distributors like us are experiencing rising demand for safer and more sustainable products. It makes perfect sense to partner with manufacturers that share your values and put them into practice. I want to see that in a manufacturer, and so do many end users. Doing the right thing can’t be wrong. — Scott Uselman, manager and director of sales, High Point Sanitary Solutions, Houston