As the threat of climate change looms larger with each new dire prediction, many businesses have made efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. But a new report is warning that such efforts may not be sufficient, and is instead encouraging industry players to adopt the more holistic tactics of the "net positive movement."

Report outlines "revolutionary" supply chain changes

"A Revolution in the Making: The Quest for Net Positive Supply Chains" is the special report recently released by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership and CHEP.

The report is free to download and filled with insights from global industry thought leaders such as Dell, Nike, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Forum for the Future, explaining in-depth the nature of the net positive movement, its core strategies, the progress made thus far and what it means for the future of complex global supply chains, according to Supply Chain Dive.

In short, net positive supply chains are those that do more than reduce a company's carbon footprint, but actually restore and replenish the natural resources that are necessary for the long-term survival of both the business and the planet. The notion is pithily summarized by the title for the first of the report's four sections, "Being Less Bad is No Longer Good Enough."
"Net positive is about rebuilding those assets you're totally reliant on as a business."

The rest of the document encourages companies to find new ways to collaborate with suppliers and customers, surveys the progress made towards sustainability and outlines the four principles for creating net positive supply chains: materiality, transparency, systems thinking and regeneration.

The report also notes that net positive results require collaboration with suppliers and within organizations, but that each company will need to spearhead its own approach and strategy based on the conditions of its unique supply chain.

Project has support of major industry players

"If you are an organization that depends upon natural resources or an organization where social cohesion is critical to the operation of your business, simply minimizing impacts isn't going to sustain your operation long-term," said Sally Uren, CEO of the global non-profit organization Forum for the Future. "Net positive is about rebuilding those assets you're totally reliant on as a business."

In 2013, Forum for the Future created the Net Positive Group with the goal of addressing sustainability challenges and promoting progress. In the years since, the organization has partnered with BSR and the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise, or SHINE, to create the Net Positive Project, a global collaboration committed to enabling more companies to take a net positive approach to their supply chain operations.

The report's other sponsor, the Australian-based CHEP, is an international provider of pallet and container pooling services for industrial and retail supply chains. The company is in a unique position to help make a significant global impact, since it operates as a subsidiary of Brambles Limited, which helps move more goods to more people, in more places, than any other organization on the planet.

"CHEP customers use our pallets over and over again, so our business model has always contributed to a more sustainable supply chain, increasing efficiencies while eliminating waste, CO2 and reducing the use of natural resources," said Juan Jose Freijo, the global head of sustainability for Brambles. "We are always looking for ways to do even more. The net positive concepts outlined in this report are both reaffirming and encouraging. We continue looking for new ways to apply these principles to global supply chains."

Dell and Nike are two of the biggest global companies involved in this research study and the net positive movement, along with IKEA, Levi Strauss and the Crown Estate, which manages the monarchy's property in Great Britain. Also highlighted in the report is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is working towards a circular economy and net positive supply chains, while stressing the urgency of the situation.

"There's a time pressure to all this," said Joe Murphy, the foundation's Circular Economy 100 Network (CE100) lead. "We're pushing the limits of planetary boundaries, so success is a necessity."
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