Succeeding with suppliers

Managing the environmental impact of base stations is a challenge with the average cellular base station containing a wide range of subassemblies and components. Working together with the suppliers, Nokia tries to ensure that the subassemblies are manufactured in an environmentally responsible way.

"We treat our suppliers like true partners," says David White, Environmental and Safety Manager, Americas. "My team and I try to be involved with a prospective supplier right from the very beginning." Typically, once the necessary components for a product are identified, the sourcing department searches for an approved vendor.

That is when David and his team step in. "We have a questionnaire that we send out to suppliers which asks how they manage their processes from an environmental perspective," he explains. The questionnaire acts as a small-scale environmental audit, which focuses specifically on the components that Nokia is using.

David describes the process after the initial assessment as a sharing session "We sit down with the supplier and review the process and how they fit in with our own environmental objectives," he notes. In many cases, the supplier has a strong environmental awareness and has put into place ISO 14000 certified Environmental Management Systems.

In other cases, the supplier has some work to do and this is when David and his team become true partners. "I tell them to consider me their newest team member. I'm willing to do anything I can to help them in reaching the necessary environmental objectives," he reveals. "It's a fundamental part of my job."

In the end, David prefers to work with suppliers to help them develop their own environmental management systems if necessary. This avoids the need for costly, specialized processes later on in the supply chain. "By working with suppliers to minimize the amounts of hazardous constituents in a component through design, we save money for everyone," he says. "The environment benefits, we benefit and suppliers benefit.

For Nokia, having suppliers that conform to accepted environmental standards is a necessity. David feels that "if our suppliers are environmentally negligent, it reflects badly on us. This is a great chance for us to work with our suppliers and improve the environmental impact of the whole supply chain."