Tech is both problem and solution for sustainable sourcing

The rapid adoption of new technologies among both businesses and consumers isn't based on a mere wish to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. Smartphones, tablets and other consumer electronic devices have grown in popularity because of the conveniences they introduce into people's personal and work lives. Virtually all types of communication - from emails with colleagues and clients to texts and phone calls between family members - can be now consolidated on a single device.

Meanwhile, mobile technologies have had similar benefits for contemporary enterprises, allowing employees to work in more streamlined, flexible ways. The cloud is allowing computing power and network storage to be distributed remotely, and big data analytics tools are enabling firms to make more targeted decisions through better business intelligence.

As tech gadgets increase in popularity among consumers and technology becomes more essential to corporate operations, it will remain imperative to develop strategic sourcing plans for the resources needed to produce and operate these tools - but often, firms run into snags in the tech procurement process.

Greening procurement for tech devices

Sustainability is one of the key problem areas for electronics and technology sourcing. The complications associated with green logistics become even greater when they overlap with global sourcing and the ethical issues related to procurement.

In a column for GreenBiz, Technology Forecasters CEO Pamela Gordon discussed the difficulties that many firms in the consumer electronics space are having when it comes to sourcing minerals for their processing chips from conflict-free zones. She pointed out that this effort isn't as simple as merely obtaining a list of mines in conflict areas and working with suppliers from elsewhere.

"Your brand company rarely buys these minerals directly. Instead, it's your contract manufacturer that buys from components manufacturers - which buy materials processors, which buy from distributors, which buy from smelters, which buy from middlemen who buy from individual mines," wrote Gordon.

Data equals insight

Gordon's point is that as supplier networks become increasingly spread out and involve a number of different levels, it grows difficult for firms to fully understand where their raw materials are coming from. However, in a post for Retail Info Systems News, SciQuest Product Marketing Director Greg Holt asserted big data technologies can help companies in particularly complex industries, such as retail, understand the various implications of a particular "sourcing event."

The difficulties of tech sourcing are without question, but in many cases, the answer to these issues may be in technology itself, particularly e-Sourcing tools.

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