Information about how business activities affect the environment, local ecosystems, and natural resources.

Tools and services to use: Risk assessment (identify and analyse), Self-Assessment Questionnaire (record), SMETA audit (verify), data platform (analyse and report), Consulting (all steps)

1. Air emissions

What this is

Gas emissions connected to business activities that could have a negative impact on people or the environment. This includes greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants that affect air quality, such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and chloroflurocarbon (CFCs).

Greenhouse gas emissions are split into three categories:

Scope 1

Emissions produced by your company’s own facilities and vehicles

Scope 2

Emissions generated by the electricity, steam and heat your company buys

Scope 3

Emissions generated in your supply chain, including production of the materials you buy, business travel, and how your company’s products are disposed of

Why capture this

Recording and reducing air emissions is an important part of environmental sustainability, essential for ESG reporting and other business activities.

Benefits of capturing air emissions data

  • Set and measure progress against environmental targets
  • Enables reduction of emissions and reduced energy use/costs
  • Meet environmental legislation
  • Show how your business contributes to international climate goals – something investors and consumers are keen to see

How to capture this

  • Monitor and record the average monthly quantities of these emissions from your company's facilities and vehicles, using sensors and monitoring tools.

  • Ask suppliers to record and share these average monthly emissions in a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) for each work site.

Air emissions data

"What quantity of greenhouse gas emissions are you emitting per month? Please state the units of measurement.”

Sedex SAQ

2. Water use

What this is

How water is used in business activities, including the wastewater produced.

Why capture this

ESG ratings providers recognise the importance of using water sustainably. They’ll look for a company to make sure water will be available for future operations, prevent environmental degradation, and ensure local areas have enough water for people and ecosystems.

Laws and regulations on water may already apply to your business. Capturing information on water use in your own operations and supply chain helps to meet those requirements.

Benefits of capturing water use data

  • Set and measure progress against water reduction targets
  • Reduce water costs through reduced usage – large companies can reduce usage by millions of litres
  • Meet legislation on water use and wastewater disposal
  • Show investors and consumers that your business is helping progress towards SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation)

How to capture this

  • Monitor and record how much water your company’s facilities use and dispose of annually, using tools such as water meters. You can also provide your facilities' up-to-date permits for using and disposing of water.

  • Ask suppliers to record and share their annual water usage in the SAQs for each of their facilities, and the relevant permits their sites have.

Use a SMETA audit to verify this information. Consider prioritising sites in high-risk areas for water stress - use a risk tool to identify these.

Water data

Sedex's Radar risk tool shows that the water stress risk is higher in apparel manufacturing than in food manufacturing.


Water stress risk: Apparel manufacturing


Water stress risk: Food manufacturing

3. Physical waste

What this is

The amount of physical waste generated through business activities.

Why capture this

ESG standards expect a company to manage their physical waste appropriately and reduce their waste’s contribution to any environmental damage or health issues.

Every country has laws for waste management, including requirements for hazardous waste that could be particularly harmful if it isn’t managed properly. These laws may also require your business to record the volumes of waste generated.

Both your own company and your suppliers will already have processes and approaches to manage waste – recording these helps to meet ESG requirements on this issue.

Benefits of capturing waste data

  • Helps to reduce costs through generating less waste – WRAP estimates companies could save up to £1,000 per employee
  • Avoid penalties for incorrect disposal
  • Meet legislation on waste disposal
  • Demonstrate improvement in waste reduction

How to capture this

  • Record the total weight of waste in metric tons from your company’s facilities, with a breakdown of this total. You can also provide your sites’ up-to-date permits for waste management, including for hazardous waste.

  • Ask suppliers to record amounts of physical waste and how it is managed in each site’s SAQ.

"The organization can describe:

  • The type of waste, such as hazardous waste or non-hazardous waste
  • The waste streams, relevant to its sector or activities (e.g. electronic waste for an organization in the consumer electronics sector)
  • The materials that are present in the waste (e.g., biomass, metals, non-metallic minerals, plastics, textiles)”

GRI Guidance for Basic Disclosure

Sedex members resolved over 5,500 waste management issues in 2021 through the SMETA audit.

Sedex analysis of SMETA audit findings

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