Make a Greener Supply Chain Your New Year’s Resolution - Dec 2018

Moving forward, consumers don’t just want the items they buy to come quickly—they want them sourced, manufactured, and shipped ethically as well. In fact, 88 percent of respondents to a recent Futerra survey say they would like the brands they support to provide products that assist them with living an environmentally friendly and ethical life.

This responsibility doesn’t fall solely on retailers. Much in the way consumers rely on retailers to help decrease their carbon footprint, those retailers rely on other supply chain stakeholders – such as suppliers and service providers – to help them operate more sustainably. The supply chain might also be considered a sustainability chain—actions taken by one link in the chain affect all the others.  

It’s a New Year, and there’s still time for you to create a better, more ethical supply chain. The following five steps will help you to get started.

1. What Does Green Mean to You?

Myriad options exist for improving the environmental or social sustainability of your business, and you can’t tackle them all at once. To begin, create a mission statement that encompasses the views and desires of your leadership, your workforce, and your customers. If you aren’t sure where to start, you might ask questions such as: 

  • Which sustainability areas are most important to our customers and end-consumers?
  • Which sustainability areas are most important to our employees?
  • How can we give back to the community?
  • Which areas of our business demonstrate the largest environmental and/or social impacts?

2. Evaluate Your Carbon Footprint

Once you have a mission statement to provide some direction, you’ll need to conduct an analysis of your internal operation. If you don’t have the right expertise in-house to conduct a comprehensive analysis, you may need to outsource this task to make sure it gets done properly. An incomplete – or worse, inaccurate – sustainability analysis will only serve to hamper your long-term goals.

In addition, request sustainability reports from your partners, vendors, and suppliers. Getting a handle on your carbon footprint can’t be done alone. It must be a collaborative effort between all your upstream and downstream supply chain partners.

3. Set Sustainability Goals

Completing your mission statement and analysis will help you to determine which areas you want to focus on first. Based on the data you’ve gathered, you’ll want to first determine what can be accomplished today. For example, start a comprehensive recycling program at your sites, or engage with local charities to provide your employees with opportunities to make a difference in your community. These smaller successes will motivate your workers to support larger goals.

 These larger long-term goals could include: 

  • Implementing Lean initiatives
  • A large-scale overhaul of waste management at all facilities
  • Seeking out new partners who can support sustainability goals
  • Establishing relationships with local and national charitable causes
  • Redesigning products and services with sustainable practices in mind

 It’s also crucial to remember that implementing an ethical supply chain is a full-time job. Your managers likely have enough on their plate already, so parsing out responsibility for your new sustainable initiatives will get left by the wayside if you don’t have a dedicated employee or team committed to it. Hiring a new sustainability manager or re-tasking a current employee into a sustainability project management role will be a key step to long-term success.

4. Incorporate Technology

The modern supply chain is a digital one, so any supply chain stakeholder that wants to succeed at building a global supply chain will need to lean on a variety of technology solutions. You may even have some of this technology in place already and need only learn how to optimize it to improve your carbon footprint.

 For example, a transportation management system (TMS) can help to optimize your shipping and delivery practices to conserve fuel and reduce emissions caused by idling. Electronic data interchange can help you collaborate with partners and suppliers to increase visibility into your supply chain and sourcing. B2B integration and other tools can assist you with going paperless.

5. Don’t Give Up

Making your operation more sustainable is a long-term project and developing and implementing a plan that works for your unique operation will take time. Understand going in that mistakes will be made, and they shouldn’t be used as an excuse to back away from your new sustainable supply chain goals.

Continuous improvement will be a primary driver for any sustainability initiative. Learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid to innovate. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Collaborate with your partners to see if they have any practices you can borrow or learn from. Your success is their success, so make sure you work with partners who understand and appreciate how your sustainability practices affect one another.

WSI – A Sustainable Partner

At WSI, sustainability is a core business value. We work hard every day to make sure we are a responsible environmental steward. As your partner, we operate on a business conduct policy based on five core values: Honesty, Reliability, Fairness, Compassion, and Stewardship. Aside from our dedication to environmentally friendly actions, this policy represents our commitment to a full spectrum of ethical supply chain practices, including a no-tolerance stance on corruption, discrimination, and human rights abuses.

Our chemical-handling facilities are Responsible Care-certified—a unique certification for warehousing and logistics providers. Our warehousing and logistics solutions help you drive supply chain efficiencies that will make a demonstrable impact on your carbon footprint while positively impacting your bottom line. Our contract facilities have implemented comprehensive recycling programs, use electric equipment whenever possible, and optimize unused space as green areas. We are an EPA SmartWay Transport Partner, and conveniently locate our facilities near major multimodal hubs to reduce fuel usage and optimize routes.

To learn how partnering with WSI can help you shrink your carbon footprint, please don’t hesitate to contact us.