The idea of sustainability encompasses economic and social components along with the environmental factor and it does so rightfully. Any effort to reverse or prevent damage to the environment must be a collective effort, be it from businesses, government, or independent non-governmental organizations that are steering these efforts. However, enabling and ensuring that the outcome of these efforts endure, is a task easier said than done. The sheer number of people and systems involved must understand and align with the agenda.
As a crucial link of any business, the supply chain extends beyond borders and connects businesses from across the globe making it the right function to own sustainability initiatives and make them profitable and impactful. Businesses often engage in social responsibility initiatives and liaise with regulatory bodies, allowing them to navigate the socio-economic impact along with the desired environmental effect. While making this important shift in agenda, businesses can simplify the transition by enacting best practices.
Having decided to make the shift is a step in the right direction, but as a business, the shift must be bound by committed actions and requires stakeholders to understand that it has its own challenges. Making a haphazard effort without a complete picture will lead to an unsatisfactory result, that counters efforts and affects the revenues. The best practices are simple principles that will provide foresight into possible challenges so that businesses can act preemptively.
Identify complete business footprint: Businesses’ carbon footprint isn’t limited to the final assembly process or output. Looking internally will allow them to understand their procurement vendors’ and suppliers’ practices which have a direct impact on the overall carbon footprint of the company. By enforcing strict standards for vendors and suppliers, business owners can ensure that suppliers at different tiers also align with the sustainable efforts of their business while manufacturing/ delivering the goods. Setting audits from time to time and offering guidance to change can help them scale up easily. Sustainability is a desirable trend for customers and helping other partners associated with businesses share its advantages will prove to be mutually beneficial.
Define goals with metrics: Knowing the progress of business is essential to understand the progress curve. There could be unavoidable deviations and new challenges arising enroute to the defined roadmap for success. Therefore, it is essential to assign clear metrics to index the change parameters and track the progress. As discussed in the previous point, a business’ success in terms of sustainability depends on the performance of multiple suppliers and vendors as well. Having well-defined metrics for fuel used/saved, distance traveled/ minimized and shared, and resources re-routed to alternate/sustainable mobility sources, plays a key role in identifying gaps in effort optimization for each process. This in turn will allow stakeholders to understand the pace, and possibility of realizing the end goal.
Collaborative efforts: Believing one business can solve the looming crisis would be narrowing the vision. Businesses must strive to identify peers working towards similar goals. Often businesses fail to identify gaps or opportunities to scale up due to narrow focus. Complementing efforts by partnering with organizations that have similar goals will help exchange ideas and broaden the vision thus moving forward at an accelerated pace and achieving sustainable solutions for the supply chain more efficiently. For instance, by operating a more connected supply chain, supply chain operators can leverage return trips to mobilize other goods instead of making an empty trip that adds to the carbon footprint. But enabling such a system requires more and more partners to collaborate and communicate in real-time. E-Commerce partners can leverage such a chain effectively.
Leveraging technology: With the right technology solution, businesses can visualize and analyze the entire supply chain, helping them to track and identify areas where alternate mobility can be utilized. A truly connected solution will also help quickly identify issues thus minimizing downtime and addressing the issue on the go. However, businesses must be aware of their current processes and future goals, to identify a solution that fits in with their cost and time limitations.
Partnering with a process maturity expert is key to identifying the right solution as well as implementing it without cutting back revenue in the process of transition. Minimizing/preventing such loss is just as important to ensure competitors don’t gain an edge. With the right planning and vision, the transition to sustainability will also be a transition to becoming profitable while ensuring business longevity. Are you ready to step into the new era of a sustainable supply chain?