By Grace Alexander
Sustainability in the supply chain is more than waste reduction and reducing the carbon footprint, it’s about a lateral shift in vision and providing the incentive for partners along each arm of the process to also commit to change. Without a broad approach to sustainability, intermittent participation by parts of supply chains can only accomplish so much.
The past few years have seen massive strides towards sustainability in segmented portions of the supply chain:
- Individual manufacturers are committing to ethical material and ingredient sourcing
- Packing companies are leveraging environmentally friendly packaging
- Logistics partners are seeking delivery solutions that carry a low carbon footprint
Technology makes being “greener”, cleaner, and ecologically friendly a more viable option. However, as long as these trends are confined to individual companies without participation throughout the entirety of supply chains, their impact is limited.
The main attraction of sustainability is global – potentially, sustainability can save the rain forests, the water supply, and the planet. On a more granular level, sustainability directly benefits companies and industries not only with improved public perception, but through streamlined productivity and cost effectiveness.
A sustainable supply chain starts with a shared vision between two or more segments, which can be nurtured and expanded until it encompasses the entire line. From there, tangential lines can also be converted, until each interconnected stretch is on board and sustainability reaches beyond a single company’s efforts and becomes truly global in nature.
A supply chain cannot be sustainable without supply, and this means sustainability starts with sourcing. Not only should the source be ecologically and ethically sound, but it must also remain constant and dependable. When a breakdown in product availability occurs, every facet of the supply chain is affected. Finding, supporting, and contributing to the growth of supply sources that meet all criterion for sustainability is vital.
Likewise, other segments of the supply chain must also fall in line. It’s not enough to reduce waste at the packaging plant through revamping the packaging process to use less material. The sourcing of packing materials should be given the same consideration as the sourcing of raw product materials in order to promote true sustainability.
The transportation industry has made some of the biggest strides when it comes to supporting supply chain sustainability. From vehicles that reduce emissions to driving schedules that leverage known routes and traffic patterns to limit time on the road, logistics companies are finding ways to simultaneously speed the delivery process while lowering environmental impact.
Other factors are also allowing supply chain sustainability to advance. Data sharing and advanced software services allow collaboration, permitting geographically close corporations to cooperatively order goods and combine minimum order quantities for more effective inventory control and less need for warehouse space.
Preferred vendors and suppliers with similar views on sustainability can be cultivated to expand supply chain impact. Each segment in the chain can bring influence to bear on adjacent segments, networking and leveraging power to create a more perfect process.
When every segment of every line is finally compliant, the vision of a sustainable supply chain becomes a reality. As more and more companies commit to this vision, positive global effects become evident and the benefits encourage others to follow suit. The advantages to individual corporations make supply chain sustainability an obvious goal to strive towards.