Creating a sustainable supply chain is becoming increasingly important for companies looking to mitigate environmental and social impacts, meet regulatory requirements, and address consumer demand for ethical and responsible practices. So let’s explore key strategies for getting started in building a sustainable supply chain.
Some strategies to consider
1. Cascading Sustainable Practices Throughout the Supply Network:
Multinational corporations (MNCs) can initiate the process of creating a sustainable supply chain by focusing on their top-tier suppliers and requesting compliance with social and environmental standards. This creates a cascade effect as these suppliers, in turn, ask the same from their suppliers, thus promoting sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.
2. Balancing Resilience and Efficiency:
Supply chain leaders need to strike a balance between resilience and efficiency in the wake of disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Building resilience involves having good visibility and agility to shift sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution activities rapidly. Companies can achieve this by implementing strategies such as inventory and capacity buffers, manufacturing network diversification, multisourcing, nearshoring, platform/product/plant harmonization, and ecosystem partnerships.
3. Addressing Visibility and Measurement Challenges:
Companies often struggle with visibility into whether their supply chains are sustainable. To overcome this challenge, technology and partnerships can provide a clearer view. Leveraging technologies like blockchain can enhance transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain. Partnerships with third-party tools or service providers can help assess suppliers’ sustainability practices and track progress.
4. Establishing Clear ROI for Sustainability Initiatives:
Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of supply chain sustainability initiatives can be challenging. However, companies can adopt a holistic approach to key performance indicators (KPIs) and recognise that sustainability performance benefits can manifest in unexpected areas. By demonstrating how sustainability efforts can differentiate the company in the market, attract talent, and increase customer loyalty, the ROI becomes more tangible.
5. Going Beyond Compliance:
Rather than just complying with regulations, companies should proactively embrace sustainability initiatives to future-proof their business. Re-framing the conversation around practical business reasons, such as increased consumer trust and regulatory compliance, can increase buy-in from leaders and encourage a more proactive approach to sustainability.
6. Assessing and Monitoring Environmental Impact:
To make the supply chain more sustainable, companies should assess their current supply chain and identify areas for improvement. This includes evaluating environmental and social impacts at each stage and setting sustainability goals. Engaging with suppliers, reducing waste and emissions, adopting circular economy principles, ensuring compliance with regulations, and monitoring and reporting progress are key steps in achieving supply chain sustainability.
Building a sustainable supply chain offers several benefits to businesses, including reduced costs through efficient practices, improved brand reputation, increased customer loyalty, mitigated risks associated with environmental and social issues, and enhanced innovation. These advantages contribute to long-term profitability, stakeholder satisfaction, and a positive impact on the environment.
The bottom line
Creating a sustainable supply chain requires a comprehensive approach that involves collaboration, transparency, and ongoing efforts to reduce environmental and social impacts. By implementing strategies to cascade sustainable practices, balance resilience and efficiency, address visibility challenges, establish ROI, go beyond compliance, and assess environmental impact, companies can take the first steps towards building a more sustainable supply chain and reaping the associated business benefits.