Sustainability a growing concern for businessesSupply chain optimization has long been a concern for businesses, but lately supply chain sustainability is an equally important issue. Companies work with suppliers across the globe to ensure they're getting the best deals on their raw materials. However, recent concerns about environmental sustainability have some businesses reworking their procurement and manufacturing processes to ensure their practices are sustainable.

Sustainability a growing problem
There are many sustainability issues facing businesses today. Environmental issues such as climate change, pollution and wasteful use of natural resources are concerns for many. Other problems involve human rights abuses and political turmoil. Because there are so many aspects to this growing movement, it can be difficult to put into place policies that will solve all sustainability issues.

Advocacy group Ceres determined that because this issue is gaining traction with the public and governments across the world, it may encourage more companies to jump on the bandwagon and publicize new sustainability efforts.

"With the regulatory, reputational, legal and operational risks associated with sustainability issues rising, companies must understand how every one of their suppliers is performing on key environmental, social and governance metrics," wrote Ceres corporate program director Amy Augustine.

Concerns leading to new business practices
Implementing sustainable business practices can be a great public relations move, but it is hard for some global corporations to measure their results. Enormous companies often work with multiple suppliers, and it can be difficult for them to gauge another corporation's sustainability practices. Corporations that have huge global supply chains may even find it difficult to monitor their own sustainability.

Ceres conducted a yearlong survey to determine the best practices in supply chain sustainability. Out of 600 major U.S. corporations questioned, more than 70 percent took minimal or no steps to ensure their suppliers had policies regarding environmental or human rights policies.

However, more industries and individual companies are coming up with techniques for evaluating suppliers and determining if they can ensure the sustainability of their materials and processes. More businesses are publicly committing to increasing sustainable practices, such as cutting down on water use, installing green technologies, improving worker conditions and using green materials.

The "greening" of supply chains may be hindered by the complexity and lack of transparency throughout the system. However, more companies are working diligently to ensure their sourcing strategies, shipping methods and materials are more sustainable than in the past.
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