Sustainability is a chance for supply chains, not a challenge

Richard Evans

Last updated: April 17, 2023
Richard Evans

It’s common for many business leaders to think the push for sustainability is driven solely by customers. Whether it’s fairtrade coffee or locally made furniture, the public are increasingly concerned by where their products come from. They want to know they’re sustainably sourced and ethically produced.

Sustainability has gone from ‘a nice idea’ to one of the key discussions in a huge percentage of boardrooms across the world. And whilst it’s often driven from a desire to maintain profits, there are other forces pushing for change.

The work boot’s mightier than the brogue

Research tells us, for the vast majority of businesses, the supply chain’s where the biggest environmental impact is seen.

In some cases it’s 90% of the footprint.

So, if you can make changes for the better there, you’re not only impacting the immediate business around you, but the world too.

And as you jostle for shoulder room in the ever-more-competitive world of business, a more efficient supply chain, cleaner brand, and more profitable business, aren’t bad cards to have up your sleeve.

Supply Chain Sustainability Footprint In Article

A leaner supply chain means a fitter business

The opportunities in carving out a leaner, greener supply chain are multitudinous.

It’s absolutely impossible to separate your supply chain from the wider company. Operationally, and as proven above… sustainably, it’s the beating heart of the business.

The side effects from improving its health are:

  • Energy costs fall, meaning profits rise
  • Your brand’s better received, making Marketing’s life easier
  • Investors and stakeholders are happier from being in the news for good reasons.
  • Share prices improve
  • And you’re a more attractive place to work, meaning attraction and retention become easier
  • And that drives standards and creates a happier workforc

But there’s no supply chain silver bullet which will magically transform things for you overnight.

You need to plan for it.

Opportunity vs Cost

Like all things worth having, sustainability doesn’t come easy. Especially for smaller businesses.

The up front costs can be prohibitive in making meaningful change to impact any of the above.

But where the barriers seem bigger, smaller tasks might pay off as marginal gains.

Could smaller packaging mean more units per shipment? Could smarter ordering mean fewer shipments overall?

1% increases in efficiency don’t seem like a lot. But the more small efforts you make, the bigger the overall impact.

And viewing these like opportunities may change the ethos from imperative cost saving to profit maximisation.

Some 1.8 billion people are expected to join the global consuming class by 2025, a 75% increase compared to 2010. Taking the small steps to supply chain sustainability now could pay off in a big way.

You just need to view it as an opportunity.

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