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With rising pressure from shareholders, investors and the international community to push sustainability into all aspects of the supply chain, there arguably has never been a more important time to disregard outdated processes and swap them for innovative techniques that prioritize the environment. However, a sustainable supply chain is so much more than the wider environment. Sustainability is an amalgamation of social, economic and environmental factors where one is not compromised for the other.
While there’s no quick and easy “fix” when it comes to integrating sustainability into the supply chain, by making the appropriate changes bit by bit, your organization can achieve a bottom line characterized not only by profit but by people and the planet. The following four tips will help you on your journey to make your supply chain more sustainable for the future.
Without a comprehensive understanding of your supply chain, it’s unlikely you’ll even be able to start implementing effective sustainability changes. After all, how can you identify necessary changes if you don’t have a visual understanding of what they all are?
As a result, the first step toward sustainability requires you to map out your entire supply chain. This will allow you to determine risks and waste-drivers while giving you an accurate representation of the social, economic and environmental challenges faced by global suppliers. You’ll then be able to see how both human and natural resources are used across every stage of the operational and production process, showing you where changes can be made.
As a supply chain manager, you must be able to see how your suppliers are producing and extracting raw materials to ensure they are following sustainability guidelines. This focus on raw materials is exceptionally important in supply chains. Although you can’t predict the effects of climate change, the countries from which these materials are extracted are likely to be impacted. This is a wider issue that will require a long-term strategy, but there are smaller actions you can take to introduce sustainability into your company.
For example, changing your pallet vendor and opting for a local supplier not only will reduce transportation times and the likely costs associated with this, but also any carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions related to travel will be lowered as well. On a smaller scale, simple hacks such as going completely paperless by using a digital means of communication and paperwork will help you do your part in caring for the planet.
A significant contributing factor to slow (and in some cases, lack of) progress in the move toward sustainability remains education. While some measures to sustainability require physical procedural changes, this generally won’t happen unless behavioral and cultural changes are implemented first. As such, a crucial step to achieving supply chain sustainability is earning the respect and understanding of your staff and suppliers.
By developing internal training programs that instill the importance of your mission to both existing and new employees, you’ll see everyone become aligned with the same goal, helping you strive toward a communal result day in and day out. To do this, showcase success stories, use facts to build momentum within your organization and have your team come up with their own ideas for how to integrate sustainable practices within more specialized business operations.
No matter how hard you try, individuals can’t solve complicated supply chain issues alone, whether they be at a company level or on a more personal level. However, what you can do is become a voice for change and spread this message to competitors who operate in similar parts of the supply chain as you do, encouraging them to collaborate on efforts to develop sustainable practices that inevitably will benefit you all.
While working with your closest competitors might initially appear to be a foreign concept, these types of collaborations will allow you to set a common standard to which your suppliers can be held accountable, preventing mountains of paperwork and enabling you to make an impact on the future of the industry as a whole.
Consumer demand has pushed environmental concerns to the forefront of the global business agenda, ultimately making a sustainable approach to how supply chains operate the only choice for sustaining an organization’s longevity. The greatest risk is to do nothing. By taking note of these four tips, you should be more prepared and encouraged to start your sustainability plan this year.
Alex Jones is a content creator for No1 Packaging, a packaging provider in the United Kingdom.