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Achieving Sustainability in the Supply Chain

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As there is a general shift towards lessening our carbon footprints and becoming more environmentally friendly, there is a growing pressure on industries to focus on their level of environmental, social, and economic impact. When it comes to manufacturing inventory, sustainability has become a buzzword for enticing customers to purchase your products. While manufacturing techniques have to offer sustainability, the products you receive from a supply chain is just as important. Looking at the conditions of the product source, creating supplier codes of conduct, assessing environmental performance, developing training and auditing programs, and continuously aiming for improvement is key to achieving a sustainable business model.


As part of your manufacturing inventory, the source of your supplies is just as important as how they are used. Focusing on the conditions from which the products were sourced can offer valuable insight into the social and environmental impact of your suppliers’ work. For example, restaurants may be motivated to buy fresh produce from local sources in an effort to support small local businesses. Making sure these early stages of product procurement are sustainable is key to continuing a sustainable supply chain.

Codes of Conduct

As you begin to identify which environmental and social factors are a priority, you can also begin to priorities efforts with suppliers. Cutting down your suppliers to only what is necessary can save money and avoid product wastage. Forming strong and positive partnerships with suppliers will make it easier to monitor and improve sustainable manufacturing practices. A common way to express these expectations is through a supplier code of conduct, which clearly outlines the sustainability expectations that are required. This agreement communicates corporate values to suppliers and customers, ensuring transparency throughout the manufacturing process. From here, you can work with suppliers on ways to improve sustainability, ultimately improving your manufacturing inventory quality.

Assessing Environmental Performance

After outlining your expectations for your suppliers, data should be collected about current sustainability efforts. Whether this is done through questionnaires, self-assessments, or audits, it is important to gauge the environmental performance of suppliers to focus on where improvement can be made. As part of your manufacturing inventory, monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water usage, and waste generation is important in allowing you to offer constructive criticism to your suppliers in an effort to encourage improvement.


Once the focus areas for sustainability improvement are found, it is important to develop training programs around these improvements. The easiest way to do this is to take advantage of external resources, such as online training modules, and collaborate with others in the industry to find the best solutions. Recognising the efforts of suppliers who are successful in their journey to sustainability is important for increasing performance and can help demonstrate the practical benefits of sustainability to other suppliers.


After the baseline steps for sustainability improvement are in place, an auditing program should be employed as a way to monitor progress. The benefits of onsite audits will show insight into local practices, behavioural challenges, and practical opportunities for improvement that previous questionnaires or assessments wouldn’t identify. This allows for the continuous improvement for your manufacturing inventory and maintains clear communication lines between supplier and manufacturer. It is important during this process to continue to express sustainability expectations as they change, and to inform suppliers when they aren’t meeting expectations. There are many common frameworks and templates to help with auditing that will avoid extra effort on the manufacturers end.

Continuing Improvement

As you improve the sustainability of your manufacturing inventory, you should strive to continue to better your environmental and social impact. As sustainability values are defined, various tracking and software solutions can help to monitor the sustainability levels of your suppliers, and stable processes can be put into place to ensure continuity of your sustainable goals. An important part of achieving sustainability in the supply chain is to realise that there is always room for improvement, and to encourage innovation and goal expansion in all industries.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

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.

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