Poll suggests supply chain sustainability still an issueSustainability is an important issue for many companies. Businesses often to try to keep their supply chains as environmentally friendly as possible - this strategy can reduce operating expenses, cut manufacturing costs and boost an enterprise's reputation as a sustainability leader. However, recent research indicates that making the steps necessary to achieve more green supply chains isn't always as easy as it seems.

The BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2012 gave some insight as to where sustainability stands in corporate supply chains and why it's at the level it is. Sixty-one percent of companies surveyed revealed that combating climate change is one of their top three sustainability issues to address in the coming year.

Major concerns
Companies listed a variety of concerns in regards to the sustainability of their supply chains. Internally, the majority (71 percent) hope to address the issue by better managing energy in business operations. Forty-three percent hope to better optimize their supply chains, and others hope to improve product design, change up business travel and reduce carbon output that occurs during construction.

However, there are obstacles in the way that prevent some companies from taking the sustainability steps they'd like to. The study revealed that businesses claimed the biggest challenge they face is working with all of their business units to implement green policies throughout their supply chains. Companies with larger and more complex supply chains may face even more issues in regards to this problem, as they must work with more departments, suppliers and logistical issues. Additionally, many businesses have supply chains that they are unable to track - while a company may be able to monitor its own purchasing and manufacturing strategies, it may have no idea if its suppliers and their contractors have implemented any green initiatives.

Another major concern for businesses is their ability to make changes while still making an impact. Companies that decide to implement green strategies need to ensure their efforts will pay off in the end and save costs while still retaining maximum productivity.

What can be done
Some companies are working hard to determine what their suppliers and manufacturers are doing in regards to environmental sustainability and have developed programs to make this possible. Others are merely requesting information from their suppliers, and still more are in the process of figuring out strategies such as procurement auditing or strategic sourcing to ensure their contractors comply with ethical, corporate or even federal guidelines.

However, there's no easy solution to this issue. What works for one company may not work for another, making it hard for corporations in different industries to mimic one another's sustainability initiatives.
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