Why sustainable supply chains?

A few of the following blog posts will aim at encouraging action to create sustainable supply chains. This change can be motivated by many factors such as organisations’ values, change in strategy, CSR campaign or seeking financial rewards. There is also a spectrum of changes that can be done to achieve a more sustainable supply chain. One organisation may have a very efficient transportation network but a very high water usage, or perhaps the damages level mean you use a lot of raw materials for little output. Because the audience comes with different expectations and needs, i will try and address a few in the following series of posts “Why do we need to create green supply chains?”.

I always believed in finding the meaning of a set of tasks to ensure the vision is clear and shared throughout the teams that will work towards the vision. As a ENFP, I am motivated to solve life’s problems when I find the deeper meaning behind it. Having a precise vision of what would be achieved has motivated me to work on long projects and overcome obstacles or to gather a team around a goal. The Why has been a kind of emergency rope I can catch when I am about to drawn in the little tasks, the How. Whether you feel strongly about finding your why or it’s a nice to have, it has been proven to be the way to communicate to inspire.

Simon Sinek argues the Why of companies is often unknown or forgotten while it would enables the message to go beyond other messages and adverts thrown around, it reaches your market and stays with the customer.

The golden circle. The way to inspire is to go inside-out

I will argue the same in this series. To convince your stakeholders of creating greener supply chains and for me to dispel your doubts I will answer the simply question of “Why do we need to create green supply chains“.

While an answer to this question would come naturally to some, considering the way most corporations have conducted business in the last decades, I would argue they have not yet found their ‘why’ – as Simon Sinek would put it. In other words, the need for green supply chains has not yet been thoroughly investigated by businesses, they haven’t fully appreciated how this can be an asset to their company. Indeed, it seems to me that often environmental issues are regarded as a detriment to growth as there must be a choice to be made between sustainability and profit. In this post I refute this myth and argue that redesigning a workplace and rethinking a supply chain to be more environmentally friendly would not only be profitable through waste reduction but also in terms of making the company a more attractive, ethical partner.

Limitations or a flash back to reality:

Making changes in the supply chain can be expensive in many ways both for the company and your customers. Change in strategy may require switching suppliers and if product costs are to rise, this increase of expense would have a knock-on effect on the customer which may lead to marketshare loss. On the flip side it could mean capturing new market shares, be part of your Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations strategies and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Supply chains can only evolve within the narrow confines of what their customers demand and are willing to pay and the suppliers’ capability. While one could argue you can inspire your customers and push them to do more as well as support your suppliers’ to innovate and choose suppliers with the same values as you, we’ll assume you’re not confident in that method (yet). Therefore, we need to find strong arguments to reduce production, transportation and post customer waste, lower our energy bills, avoid buying new machines, rethink our packaging etc. Sounds like a lot? Don’t you worry I am here to guide!

“It appears that many executives are still unaware that improved environmental performance means lower waste-disposal and training costs, fewer environmental-permitting fees, and, often, reduced materials costs.”

MARTIN MURRAY – The balancemb.com

Waste disposal cost:

Waste is the processes and products that do not add value to the customers. Think of lean methods or Toyota Production System for your waste management especially overproduction, transport, defect and packaging.

It is estimated that around 4% of your turnover will be spent on waste disposal. This seems significant enough to reduce it by producing less waste, repairing your machinery, up-cycling and selling by-products. Recycling will allow you to reduce by half the cost of the waste disposal. It is a good start but we can do more. The most eco-friendly and cost effective option is still to avoid creating the waste or at least to re-use those precious resources. To be effective, this has to become a strategy not a mere recycling scheme that isn’t much more than lip-service or green washing.

The best way to manage your waste is to … not create any. Easier said than done? Yes but viewing waste as firstly undesirable or a potential opportunity to be reused, sold or valued is the mindset to adopt to move on from a linear and resource hungry economy towards a circular one which keeps resources in a loop generating a sustainability haven. In the following post I will share actionable steps to remove some waste from your operations.


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