How can a sustainable supply chain improve efficiency?

Going green has been all the rage among the global population. Both governments and their citizens are determined to reduce pollution, eliminate waste and save the environment. With consumers searching for eco-friendly alternatives, businesses' only solution is to do the same. By replacing their old systems with sustainable supply chain management, corporations can appeal to their customers and streamline their workflows.

Sustainable supply chain management brings together environmental considerations and financially savvy decisions. From product design and creation to transportation and distribution, every choice that is made should focus on shrinking the company's carbon footprint while establishing a more efficient process, the Sustainable Supply Chain Foundation explained. By implementing energy-saving and waste-reducing practices, businesses will require fewer resources to create the same products. When consumers see that corporations are trying to do their part to save the planet, they'll be more likely to buy items or services from the company.

According to a Harvard Business Review interview with Peter Senge, the founder of the Society for Organizational Learning and author of several books, the businesses that last the longest are the ones that consider the community as a whole and are not just concerned with making money. Organizations' supply chains impact their surroundings, so they must think about how their choices will affect the people who live in those areas and who frequent their companies. Sustainability is just a minor part of satisfying citizens.

While becoming more eco-friendly will appeal to the masses, it will also fill businesses' banking accounts. With new product designs and more efficient processes, companies won't require as much funding to create, ship and sell their merchandise. By streamlining designs and practices, fewer materials will be required for production, meaning there will be fewer by-products that need to be disposed of, The Guardian explained. More efficiency can also increase productivity, reduce costs and support growth.

Of course, this can also relate back to Senge's statement that long-lasting businesses need to focus on the community. By implementing environmentally friendly practices, companies can help slow climate change. When the atmosphere improves, severe weather may decline. Procurement costs will be less expensive if droughts and storms aren't damaging suppliers' locations and goods, according to the source. This will also benefit customers. When corporations don't have to pay a lot for raw materials, prices won't be driven up for consumers.

How can you make the switch?
The best way to implement SSCM is to know your supply chain completely. Where are your materials coming from? What processes do those vendors use to grow or build them? How do products get from one place to another? You need to know the current system before you can make any changes.

Partnering with a non-governmental organization may be able to start the process. Specialized NGOs generally have more knowledge than you will about the environment, so they'll be able to provide you with the information to streamline each part of your supply chain to make it more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, Senge explained. Coca-Cola tried to reduce its water usage on its own, but it wasn't until the company teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund that it discovered just how much water actually goes into making the sugary beverage.

Once you know the areas in which you can improve, you'll be able to make changes. Start slowly. Switch a few practices at your headquarters before moving onto the entire process. It's going to take time and effort, but both the environment and the business's finances will benefit.

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