Supplier engagement: How to collect and manage supplier emissions data

Collecting and maintaining accurate, organized supplier emissions data requires a survey tool that is easy to use and a data management tool that is secure, dynamic, and reliable.

If your company has set a goal for reducing supply chain emissions, there is one thing you absolutely can’t go without—supplier emissions data. Accessing data that originates outside your business, compiling it, and managing it over time is an interesting challenge. You’ll need suppliers to agree to share their data, a data collection method or survey that is as easy as possible for suppliers to use, and a way to connect your survey results with a data management platform that will make it possible for you to track progress, identify trends, and share feedback with each supplier. This data collection and management system will form the foundation of your supplier engagement strategy.

Let’s explore strategies for collecting supplier emissions data, storing it properly, and managing it effectively.

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Collecting supplier emissions data

Industry tools

The carbon accounting industry has developed a series of tools for collecting accurate supplier data. Platforms like CDP and the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) Emissions Management Tool offer structured, established ways to access public emissions data or gather data directly from suppliers. In fact, you may find that some of your suppliers have already reported their emissions data to the CDP or an industry-specific trade organization.


While industry tools are invaluable for establishing a foundation of supplier data, it is likely that not all of your suppliers have calculated their emissions, let alone reported them to a third party. To get emissions data from these suppliers, you will need to survey them, with either a survey you build yourself or a purpose-built software solution.

DIY survey

Building your own survey offers unparalleled flexibility—you can design it to include the exact questions you need to ask each supplier, to collect the exact data you need for your supply chain emissions goals. However, manually building a survey, connecting it to your data management platform, tracking outgoing emails, and ensuring that your survey stays updated as your supplier engagement program evolves is a big task, especially if you are operating as a team of one. It can also contribute to survey fatigue, where suppliers are tasked with completing unique surveys from each of their customers, making it challenging to keep up with competing data requests.

Software solution

Tools like Optera’s Supply Chain Manager are another option. Our proprietary database already includes emissions data for over 10,000 suppliers, and the Outreach module supplements this data by walking suppliers through a guided workflow, making it as simple as possible for them to report, calculate, or estimate their emissions based on how mature their sustainability program is.

For example, when the Dell Technologies team needed accurate emissions data for a third-party audit, they got up and running on Supply Chain Manager and within weeks, were tracking and analyzing specific emissions data for over  90 percent of their supply chain—roughly 300 suppliers, including both direct and indirect suppliers.

Note: the way you choose to collect data may differ from one supplier to the next, depending on the relationship you have with each and how you have prioritized them within your supplier engagement strategy. We’ve done a deep dive on supplier prioritization and ranking in this blog.

Connect your data collection system to your ongoing data management system

To ensure the ongoing accuracy of your supplier emissions data, it’s essential that whatever data collection option you choose can integrate seamlessly with the system you will later use to manage that data. That will facilitate real-time updates as your suppliers provide information in the future, making it easier to track trends and progress over time.

Make the barrier to entry as low as possible

Consider that your suppliers may be fielding data requests from multiple sources every year. If there is a way for you to access data your suppliers have already provided—whether it’s through CDP or a database like Optera’s—reduce duplicative asks and use that existing data. Otherwise, make the data collection process as easy as possible for your suppliers, and you are more likely to get high-quality and timely responses.

Managing the emissions data you’ve collected

Storing data securely

Once you’ve collected emissions data from your suppliers, managing and storing it is the next step. You can build your own data management system or use software that’s tailor-made for carbon accounting, but it’s crucial that whichever option you choose, supplier data is stored to a high standard of confidentiality and protection. If you go the software route, ensure that your provider has been audited for its data privacy practices.

Sharing feedback with suppliers

Next, you must consider how much data you want to provide to your suppliers in return. If you are creating a supplier scorecard, tracking progress over time, or ranking your suppliers, you may want to consider whether and how you will share feedback with them. This level of transparency can encourage deeper engagement with your emissions reduction recommendations.

Providing supplier benchmarks may form part of your ongoing supplier education strategy as well. For more on educating and incentivizing suppliers, check out our blog on the subject.

Data validation

You and your suppliers are not the only ones who will be reviewing this data; if you pursue third-party verification, then your verifier will need access as well. Keep that in mind as you design a data management system or choose a vendor; the better organized your supplier emissions data is, the more efficient your verification process will be.


Whether you build your own data collection and management system, use publicly available data, or use purpose-built software like Optera’s, your supplier engagement program will thrive or wither based on the data you feed into it. Tracking progress against your goal, scoring your suppliers, and identifying hotspots and trends is only possible with accurate, organized data. Plus, successful third-party verification and disclosures to SBTi, CDP, and the public require proof in the form of data—so setting up a solid data collection and management system from the start is in your program’s best interests.

Interested in learning more about Optera’s Supply Chain Manager? Request a demo and our team will show you how it works.

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