Sustainability is a hot buzz word for companies in every industry. Consumers are looking for products that have a sustainable component or brands with a sustainable ethos. Companies are using it to leverage consumers in new markets and harness it as a selling point. Being sustainable isn’t just about the workers on the ground or the production staff; it’s the whole supply chain. The term sustainability is loosely used sometimes and it means different things to different people.
When looking at the sustainability of a supply chain, we want to look at a variety of factors including environmental, social and economic issues and how viable they are in the long-run. People and companies throughout the entire supply chain are responsible for taking action on these matters. However, it is one thing to say you operate in a sustainable manner and another to prove you operate in a sustainable manner.
The market is overrun with companies saying they are ‘going green’ or they are ‘eco-friendly’. More than ever, people want transparency around sustainability claims. However, many of these companies are lacking the transparency it needs to support these claims.
When analysing a supply chain’s sustainability, you will need to assess where are the raw materials sourced and are by-products recycled or thrown away. Are the raw materials renewable or non-renewable? What is the distance your goods must travel to reach the consumer? Perhaps that distance is quite substantial and it has a huge impact on your carbon footprint as a company.
People want to see where their products are coming from and trust the brand that they are buying from. Traceable facts on websites, social media and the packaging are good places to start. There is a huge opportunity to produce videos and show live feeds from parts of the supply chain. For example, you could have daily images or a webcam set up in some of the inventory manufacturing settings in your supply chain. If a customer wanted to know the roots of their product, they could follow a link or QR code to see what is going on in the factory or warehouse.
Social factors look at the sustainability of your workforce. Can you ensure that your suppliers are paying fair wages to their employees? You need to be aware of child labour laws and need to make sure they are not exploiting minors. Additionally, working conditions need to be sustainable environments for the workers. Proper ventilation needs to be installed, ample breaks provided, and protective gear must be used when working with any hazardous chemicals.
In many inventory manufacturing environments, there is a lot of quality control around the production of the good, but not as much assurance around the quality and treatment of their human resources. Inventory manufacturing can have numerous health and safety hazards and they are often be ignored in overseas countries. This is not a sustainable or transparent process.