University of Minnesota

New pilot program takes aim at supply chain carbon

University of Minnesota’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise and CDP partner to help suppliers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

January 21, 2014

Recognizing that the vast bulk of most companies’ carbon footprint rests in its supply chain, the University’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise has teamed up with CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) to help global suppliers reduce their carbon emissions.

CDP is a non-governmental organization that provides a global environmental disclosure system to encourage companies around the world to reduce carbon emissions. For the past few years, CDP’s supply chain program has seen an increase in the number of global supplier companies reporting their carbon emissions, with over 2,800 companies reporting in 2013. However, the number of actions suppliers have taken to mitigate emissions has remained low relative to the number of activities taken by multinational purchasing companies (e.g., retailers and end product manufacturers) that are members of CDP’s supply chain program. In response, CDP has developed an initiative known as Action Exchange (AEX), which provides suppliers with information they can use to save money and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Six large customers — Bank of America, L’Oreal, PepsiCo, Philips, Vodafone and Walmart —and over 100 of their suppliers are participating in the pilot program. Using CDP’s massive multiyear dataset on corporate carbon emissions, NiSE is recommending which suppliers are likely to provide the greatest carbon returns by participating in the program.

"It is an exceptional opportunity to inform the actions of large global corporations," says NiSE researcher Jennifer Schmitt.

The launch of the pilot program coincides with the release of CDP Supply Chain Report 2013-14, which includes a commentary on NiSE’s role in the pilot project.

"Many companies have carbon targets they are trying to reach," says Schmitt, "but they are often still focusing their efforts on energy efficiency projects. While these are admirable, they are not the highest yielding activities from a carbon reduction perspective. Companies need to give more consideration to other actions such as changes in product design, which can yield significantly greater carbon reductions."

To view and download a copy of the report and access related infographics and videos, visit CDP.

The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment seeks lasting solutions to Earth's biggest challenges through research, partnerships and leadership development. For more information, visit

The NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, an IonE program, works with private sector partners to identify and overcome systemic obstacles to achieving a truly sustainable economy. For more information, visit

CDP is an international, not-for-profit organization providing the only global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share vital environmental information. CDP works with market forces, including 722 institutional investors with assets of US$87 trillion, to motivate companies to disclose their impacts on the environment and natural resources and take action to reduce them. CDP now holds the largest collection globally of primary climate change, water and forest risk commodities information and puts these insights at the heart of strategic business, investment and policy decisions. Visit or follow @CDP to find out more.

Twin Cities Campus: