Sustainability is as important as quality, explains PCB specialist, NCAB Group. Social, environmental and ethical responsibility are key to sustainable success.
From as far back as 2014, the NCAB Group has embraced a sustainability strategy that commits to a responsible approach in every aspect of its operations — socially, environmentally and ethically. Today, NCAB is working to improve its sustainability based on three groups of stakeholders: the supply chain, employees and customers.
One major initiative designed to address sustainability in the supply chain was the appointment of Jenny Zhang as permanent sustainability manager in China. Jenny enables NCAB to focus on sustainability issues more proactively and in close dialogue with partner factories.
Strategic purchasing manager at NCAB Group, Anna Lothsson, explained: “We conduct sustainability audits at our main factories in China every two years, with a follow-up within six months to verify that improvements have been implemented.”
A sustainability audit also forms part of the evaluation process for potential new partner factories. Anna continued: “Sustainability is from the outset, an integral part of our factory evaluation process. Meeting our requirements in this area is equally important as meeting quality requirements.”
Having local employees on the spot in China is vital to ensuring that thorough evaluations are carried out. Anna explained: “At our audits, Jenny can read original documents, conduct interviews and talk with factory employees in their own language.”
As head of sustainability for NCAB in China, Jenny is responsible for controlling compliance with NCAB’s sustainability requirements. She conducts audits, as well as checking to ensure that factories comply with the REACH and RoHS environmental regulations.
Jenny added: “I help our factories address areas such as labour and working conditions, health and safety, environment and chemical management. Recently, we have updated our audit template to monitor a greater number of items and obtain a better overview of the factories’ sustainability work.”
As its framework for sustainability, the group applies ISO 26000, an international standard providing guidance on social responsibility, which covers several aspects of sustainability. NCAB has integrated ISO 26000 into its internal audit system and performs an annual declaration of compliance with the standard, which is verified by a certified body.
So, what does a sustainability audit entail? First, NCAB goes through documentation such as policy, goals, activities, performance reports and improvement plans. Documents covering working time, salaries, education and safety are also checked.
Sustainability manager, Jenny, continued: “I also carry out inspections on site. For example, I make certain they don’t employ child labour, that they have fully functioning fire safety systems, personal protection equipment and first aid. These should be documented and receive regular service checks. I also verify how chemicals are handled, transported and stored and scrutinize waste and sewage treatment, as well as ventilation systems.”
Value of compliance
Looking at the cost of this sustainability work, NCAB group chief operations officer, Chris Nuttall, explained how it helps to generate income. He commented: “Our efforts provide a doorway for new customers. The equation adds up thanks to the priority customers put on secure deliveries and ensuring that the partner they work with will be around in the long term.”
Accordingly, NCAB has noticed growing interest from customers around these issues. Anna Lothsson concluded: “Questions about how we work with sustainability are increasingly part of customers’ evaluations. We are all part of a supply chain and together we can create a sustainable business.”