For many decades now, environmentalism has been on the front line of concerns both by individuals and businesses alike. Now more than ever, there’s that clamor to switch to more eco-friendly and sustainable practices. As environmental issues and problems continue to progress, businesses also have to strive to see better and more workable solutions. Change has to be made, especially for businesses and organizations identified as the top contributors to environmental degradation.
There’s no better place to start that change than through the supply chain. Most rightfully so, given that the supply chain refers to the flow of production from manufacturing and freight to the goods, making it to the retailers’ shelves or stores. When you take each step of the supply chain one by one, you’ll be able to find areas of improvement where you can begin to implement more eco-friendly practices.
As your guide, here are four features of a green supply chain you must also strive to have:
1. Biodegradable Or Reusable Packaging
There are two areas of packaging you should look into in your supply chain. The first happens in the main manufacturing or production department–once your products are packed, they can be sent to the retailers’ shelves. The second facet of packaging happens in the retail department or your stores.
In those two areas, many wasteful and unnecessary packaging may be used in the name of style, like having unnecessary Japanese, crepe, or tissue paper placed in boxes to fluff up the packaging. Rather than opting for these wasteful and expensive options, you may want to consider shredded, recycled, and double-used paper instead.
Apart from that change, here are other areas you can practice to have a more sustainable packaging in your supply chain:
- Avoid over-packaging;
- Use less packaging;
- Use alternative, more reusable materials, like multiwall paper sacks.
2. Ethical Sourcing
The very core of your supply chain management is in finding ethical suppliers. This means that your suppliers should also be on the same boat regarding your strive for sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Otherwise, if your suppliers aren’t eco-friendly or sustainable, this means the entire flow in your supply chain also ceases to be sustainable.
Finding suppliers already takes a lot of legwork. All the more does this increase when you’re looking for sustainable suppliers. This isn’t, therefore, a step you can do and perform overnight. It would help if you did a lot of research to ensure you’re working with the best possible ones.
Apart from performing your own research, you may also want to seek the help of production and sourcing agents. These are well-proven experts that have their network of connections, so you can be certain that the suppliers you plan to tie up with are, in fact, sustainable suppliers.
Here are some examples of a watertight set of standards you should go through when evaluating suppliers:
- Sustainable business model;
- Animal-friendly practices;
- Ethical supply chain within the suppliers themselves;
- Environmentally-friendly materials;
- Water efficiency in the supplier’s production and manufacturing process.
3. Eco-Friendly Manufacturing
The manufacturing department of the supply chain is where a lot of waste products can happen. If you aren’t particular about your processes, it’s not surprising at all to have a lot of waste. Fortunately, many manufacturing managers are stepping up to the challenge by conserving energy, reducing wastage, eliminating pollution, and maximizing available resources in the manufacturing plant.
With that in mind, here’s how you can transform your manufacturing process to turn it into an eco-friendlier one:
- Measure all the inputs used in the manufacturing process: By doing so, you’re certain that every raw material serves an intended purpose, and you aren’t ordering anything more than necessary.
- Optimize your use of fossil fuels: Many companies are now switching to renewable energy sources, whether partially or fully. Good if you’ve made it to the latter. If not, then be sure you’re optimizing your use of non-renewable energy. It’s as simple as switching off equipment and lights in the manufacturing plant to reduce energy consumption when not in use.
- Get certified in the standards that encourage environmental sustainability: This means meeting the accountability measures to align with your goal for better sustainability.
- Eliminate waste: Use only the raw materials you need, hence don’t have any more packaging and energy usage than what’s needed for the manufacturing plant to function.
- Analyze your current production processes: This way, you can have a clear-cut idea regarding certain areas in your production process that can be eliminated.
4. Sustainable Transportation Practices
Another area in the supply chain where non-sustainable practices can happen is logistics, freight, or transportation. Take time to study your current logistics setup and find areas for you to improve in. In total, the changes you create will result in an eco-friendlier transport and logistics setup. Most importantly, you’re not just making your company greener, but you may cut down on certain aspects of your transportation and operations expense as well.
For instance, assess what kind of gasoline or diesel you’re using for your fleet. Is it still obsolete? Many gasoline stations now offer ‘greener’ versions or options of gas or diesel, which results in better fuel efficiency. It’s worth taking a look at those options. Also, do you have old trucks that are no longer as sustainable? Perhaps you’d like to trade it in for newer, more energy-efficient vehicles.
When it comes to your drivers and scheduling, be sure to reduce idle time, too. This means having a lower time of drivers spent inside the vehicles on unscheduled trips or stops. If you don’t have one yet, install a GPS to ensure that your drivers travel the most direct, shortest, and fastest route. As you make that practical decision, you’re also effectively speeding up your deliveries, making your company even more efficient.
When you gather all of the features of a supply chain as one, it’s easy to glean that the objective of the processes is to minimize or eliminate waste whenever possible. This includes reducing energy consumption in your processes, lowering solid waste, and minimizing the volume of greenhouse and chemical emissions.
However, this isn’t an overnight change, and the features above aren’t absolute, either. There are many more you’ll come across as a sustainable supply chain becomes second nature to your brand. The change may be big, but the benefits are also greater once people recognize you as a brand that lives up to its corporate social responsibility of environmentalism and sustainability.