Learn about Best Practices from Toxnot Users
As part of Greenbuild 2018, we hosted a Toxnot User Group to better understand how current Toxnot users take advantage of the supplier surveys, data management and reporting features. The most popular topic was the supplier surveys, and I was very impressed with the best practices that our users shared. As we've learned, this can be a source of frustration for others, so here are five tips to get the highest quality responses from suppliers:
1. Remember the Basics
When reaching out to suppliers, users emphasized the importance of including basic request information in the initial email request. Who, what, when and why is my rule of thumb for the basics. Suppliers respond much better if they know who they are working with and how they can reach out to you or reply to your request with questions. They will have a much easier time directing the request to the right person internally if they know what information is being requested. It’s also key to let them when you expect the response returned and finally, why the information is needed.
2. Introducing… Toxnot
A simple introduction can go a long way! Each user introduced Toxnot to their suppliers and involved the procurement team or buyers, but the specific approach was unique at each organization.
Here are two examples:
- The buyer sent an introductory email letting the supplier know about the future requests from Toxnot, and then the sustainability folks would work with the supplier from there.
- The sustainability team would lead all communications but copy the buyer on everything that was sent, including the request from Toxnot.
For both approaches, the introductory email allows the supplier to be certain that Toxnot is part of your company’s formal process and helps communicate the importance to the business of them completing the request.
Toxnot Tip: Learn how to copy other contacts on a Toxnot supplier survey.
3. Establish Expectations Early-on
Many users mentioned the necessity of establishing the chemical disclosure requirements early-on in the supplier relationship. Including these requirements in the formal supplier agreement was the first step, and then making sure that the supplier understood those requirements during vetting greatly improved success. Often times, the chemical data can't be obtained during the establishment of a supplier relationship because the specification of what's being purchased hasn't been finalized. When the supplier is aware that they will need to share full or nearly full material disclosure later on, it makes the introduction of Toxnot much easier as they won't be surprised when the request comes.
4. Multiple Levels of Disclosure
Just like back in high school, some suppliers will be over-achievers, and some will be slackers. Multiple users mentioned the importance of having multiple levels of disclosure available for supplier that fall into those two categories and everywhere in between. Most users initially ask for full material disclosure from their suppliers. Suppliers would often be concerned about their proprietary chemicals, and that desire to keep some chemicals proprietary was answered by the proprietary feature within the supplier surveys in Toxnot. However, some suppliers want to attest to a specific list of chemicals or answer questions on their product instead of full material disclosure, so sending a second survey to laggard suppliers with a simpler request was a highly successful approach.
5. Language Matters
Finally, be sure to phrase questions in a way that suppliers understand, and that encourages them to respond with as much information as possible. Melea Wade from Shaw provided an example regarding California Prop 65 content. Rather than asking two questions and making it easier to not include the chemical names:
Ask one, and be straight-forward:
Melea found she got much better responses to the simpler second question.
Being clear, fair and somewhat flexible with your suppliers is very important in requesting information, especially sensitive information like chemical content. Use these best practices to make things easier for both you and your suppliers. You may start using supplier surveys with a free account Toxnot today.
Do you have any successful tips to share?