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Award-Winning Corporate Social Responsibility at AT&T

Senior Managing Editor, APICS Magazine

Tuesday December 12, 2017


This was an exciting year for the APICS Awards of Excellence. For the first time, we included individual awards in the program:

  • APICS Award of Excellence — Supply Chain Leader
  • APICS Award of Excellence — Emerging Supply Chain Leader
  • APICS Award of Excellence — Diversity and Inclusion Champion
  • APICS Award of Excellence — Corporate Social Responsibility Catalyst.

Our esteemed judges and the awards team here at APICS were delighted to honor Stephen Bernard, senior sustainability manager in global supply chain at AT&T, with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Catalyst award. The award recognizes consistent integration of CSR and reduction of environmental impact throughout the supply chain. Bernard has promoted CSR in business for more than 30 years. Currently, he leads his teams in developing, implementing and managing new policies and programs that build sustainable business practices into supply chain operations.

I learned many interesting things about Bernard and AT&T’s supply chain while reviewing the award submission made on his behalf. Equally inspiring is the current APICS magazine feature article that highlights the ongoing successes of his team’s CSR efforts. As Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Proctor writes, “AT&T is focusing on how the sourcing managers work with suppliers to ensure they respond to the company’s sustainability assessment and ultimately help suppliers improve their performance. As a result, AT&T is seeing greater supplier awareness and higher sustainability scores.”

She is talking about AT&T’s Sustainability Principles of Conduct for Suppliers — guidelines that solidify the company’s expectations for sustainable supplier conduct — which Bernard developed and oversees. Furthering this initiative is AT&T’s annual Supplier Sustainability Assessment, which aims to lead the advancement and refinement of the assessment and capability-building process to improve supplier sustainability performance.

According to the document, suppliers are an important part of AT&T’s business and therefore must be an equally important part of its approach to citizenship and sustainability. The document defines minimum qualification requirements related to sustainable business practices; the environment, health and safety; supplier diversity; ethics; human rights; and more. Here are some key points:

  • AT&T reviews credit and financial reports to determine if a potential supplier has a good enough credit rating and is financially stable.
  • Potential suppliers should be in business for at least a year and have other satisfied customers.
  • Suppliers must have full insurance coverage compatible with the risks of their business.
  • Suppliers must provide high-quality products and equipment and perform services professionally and to AT&T’s satisfaction.
  • Suppliers must make on time delivery to AT&T warehouses, job sites or other locations.
  • Suppliers must offer prices for their products and services that are competitive within the industry. AT&T expects pricing and any discounts to be equal to or better than that given to other customers with a comparable volume of business.
  • Because AT&T believes that quality is built, not inspected, in to a product or service, suppliers are expected to demonstrate their quality control programs and should adopt methods such as statistical quality control.
  • For products that are ordered in large volumes, suppliers should use electronic data interchange for receiving and confirming orders and invoicing. The products AT&T purchases in large volumes should have bar codes for inventory and tracking purposes.
  • Suppliers should have a research and development program to continually improve their products and incorporate new technology.
  • AT&T works with suppliers to reduce their costs and expects these cost reductions to be reflected in reduced prices.

The results of these initiatives are impressive, with AT&T reaching its sustainability goals one year ahead of schedule and, thus far, engaging about 500 suppliers that represent more than $50 billion of AT&T’s budget. This program also dramatically increased awareness and performance related to reporting greenhouse gas emissions and implementing sustainable business practices.

Bernard and his team have an important story to tell, and I’m proud that the APICS Awards of Excellence and APICS magazine have given them a global platform. The more supply chain management professionals follow these types of best practices, the better positioned their organizations will be to maximize CSR opportunities for years to come.

The APICS Awards of Excellence recognize corporations and individuals exhibiting superior performance and dedication to advancing the field of supply chain. Watch for the Call for Entries in March 2018.