There are multiple ways to implement sustainability practices in a supply chain. Choosing which areas to tackle first can seem complicated. But some common practices cross industries and apply to most companies.
Choose recycled or sustainably produced materials (like wood pallets). This is one of the most basic applications of the reduce-reuse-recycle framework. Every business can choose green materials at some level.
If shipping products, then choose wood pallets. Wood pallets are less expensive and 95% are reused and recycled. Shipping is already very energy-intensive. You can help reduce its impact with your choice of materials.
Companies make procurement choices every day. Take the time to choose suppliers in your industry that are already using green materials and processes. Try to find suppliers that incorporate sustainable practices already.
Purchasing from an environmentally responsible established supplier strengthens their position in the market and provides an incentive for other suppliers to follow the lead.
Remember hidden costs. You may pay more with a green supplier, but do you save in responsible waste disposal and/or recycling of more materials? Audit the product lifecycle and determine where costs can be re-distributed or eliminated.
Transportation is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As energy-saving options come on the market, take a closer look at your transportation suppliers. Choose those who are investing in clean-energy options. Just like all other purchasing, balance the cost of choosing greener transportation with the overall benefit to the communities you serve, your reputation, and the stability of your supply chain.
Packaging can be one of the largest contributors to product wastefulness. Look at the entire lifespan of your packaging. How much of it ends up in the landfill, and how much of it can be reused or recycled?
Consumers are looking for less packaging. They’re also looking for innovative disposal methods. Can you use compostable packaging? Give your customers an easy choice with clear and visible instructions for environmentally friendly disposal.
First Steps-Greening the Supply Chain
No matter how big the company, the first steps in greening the supply chain is to understand that it is complex endeavor that will require time and resources to be truly effective. A green supply chain is intentional. The strategies come from the top down and involve every part of the chain. Build a plan and tackle each issue comprehensively.
Examine each step, from the acquisition of raw materials to the last mile of delivery. The key is to make incremental changes in daily operations that are part of a larger strategic plan. Identify the weakest points and work to strengthen them.
Talk to suppliers about sustainability practices. Some will have implemented strategies that lend themselves easily to the effort. A company’s vision and plan for sustainability is part of a larger strategic plan and supplier partners that can help by virtue of their own sustainability practices are essential.
A great benefit to investing in the green supply chain is that the effects can be larger than the intended scope of the initial investment. Helping a supplier/partner to improve its sustainability practices can create a stronger, more resilient supply chain overall.
That goodwill becomes a part of your company’s legacy and reflects positively on the reputation in the business community as a good partner.
The goodwill is a small, but essential, step in creating sustainable industries that become the standard.
The pandemic has exposed the fragility of supply chain problems as a worldwide issue. We are also realizing that greening supply chains makes them both more environmentally responsible and more resilient. Taking the first steps in greening the supply chain may seem daunting, but the small steps that a company takes can make a difference.
Every company that invests in sustainable practices, like using recycled wood pallets, is contributing to a greener global business environment. Those contributions will add up collectively to help lower costs and reduce waste.
Examining the company’s environmental footprint might seem troublesome, but seeing it as an opportunity to make positive, eco-friendly changes is good for business.