Sustainability is a common theme in business these days, yet many companies have little real understanding of the sustainability impacts of their supply chain. Being green is more than simply reducing waste, energy and water consumption or lessening your environmental impact when producing a specific item of inventory stock.
The concept of a sustainable business means examining and streamlining the entire operating process for the long-term viability of any given supply chain.
Consumer companies are increasingly held responsible for ensuring that their supply chains are well managed. These companies are also in strong positions to influence their suppliers and drive sustainability within their supply chains.
Steps for a greener, more sustainable supply chain
1. Start with a community-oriented culture
Have a clear idea of your company’s vision and goals, what you want to achieve and strategies to achieve them. It’s not a choice between what’s good for the environment versus what’s good for your bottom-line. Implementing sustainable practices into your business and supply chain can increase profitability.
2. Employ innovative staff
A business is a group of people working together to achieve a purpose. Recruit staff who have the skill and the vision to redesign products, processes, and business activities and who understand the context of sustainability.
3. Look beyond manufacturing alone
Sure, lean manufacturing can help reduce waste and incorporating recycled and eco-friendly materials into operations can lower your carbon footprint. But the manufacture of inventory stock is only one component of a sustainable supply chain.
4. Choose the most environmentally responsible suppliers
Take stock of all the suppliers, contractors and businesses that operate within your supply chain. Work with them to pinpoint any challenges they may have so you can help them to identify solutions and prioritise efforts. Once they know where issues are, it is easier to set goals for lessening the resulting impact.
5. Determine your benchmark for best practice
Complex supply chain challenges are rarely solved by individual efforts and industry groups generally lead in the setting of common standards and practices. This helps when setting a baseline for sustainability performance and allows suppliers to be evaluated on the same metrics.
6. Establish and communicate expectations
This can easily be achieved with a supplier code of conduct, performance evaluations or questionnaires. Reinforce efforts by monitoring suppliers’ sustainability measures and enforce accountability.
7. Assist suppliers in their sustainability efforts
Implement programs that directly support the company’s own sustainability goals. However, to ensure better practices throughout the supply chain you can offer your suppliers technologies, guidelines and products to help them optimise their long-term sustainability and improve environmental conservation.
Collaboration and certification
Supply chains tend to overlap in many consumer sectors, therefore companies can benefit from collective action. Work together with industry peers to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration. Involve supplier networks in sustainability efforts and ideas to successfully achieve a sustainable way of working.
Independent third-party certification can provide a vigorous and transparent audit of the supply chain process that can deliver traceability through the entire supply chain, from the farmer, to the manufacturer and on to the end user.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.