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3 Steps to Building a Green Supply Chain

December 4, 2014

You listen to your customers. You read several newspapers a day, so you know all about corporate sustainability—how sustainable companies make record profits and are measurably more popular with the public.

You and senior management have made the decision to switch to a leaner, more sustainable business model. Your processes now exceed EPA rules on greenhouse gas emissions, you’ve reviewed and remedied inefficient daily operations, you’ve instilled a green culture in your company and your employees participate in a company-wide recycling program.

You’re aware that sustainability has a positive effect on profitability. So why is your bottom line suspiciously similar to the number it was the last few quarters? You’ve invested time and money in a sustainability program, but you’re not seeing tangible results in your overall profits. This is a common situation many companies find themselves in upon first implementing a sustainability initiative. But why is this so?

Because they have not also made the jump to a greener supply chain.

A sustainable supply chain is of pivotal importance to a green way of doing business. Here are three steps that will help you build a green supply chain:

1)  Start a Dialogue With Your Suppliers

Ask your suppliers—whether food wholesalers for your restaurant or metal components for manufacturing—if their businesses practice sustainability. How do they reduce excess waste? Do they have a recycling program for unused or discarded products? Do they use green equipment?

See if your suppliers have measures in place that allow them to transport their products in an environmentally friendly way, such as fuel-efficient vehicles, training classes for drivers, or by utilizing bulk shipping to save on costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Don’t forget to also engage sub-tier suppliers, i.e. companies who supply your suppliers, in the discussion. Most importantly, communicate your expectations. Define overall objectives and then work with your suppliers to set short-term goals that will get you there.

But if you are in the process of setting up or restructuring your supplier network, it may be a good idea to first check any relevant public information or case studies on the green performance of potential partners. If available, reference the water and energy usage, emissions, and waste generation data provided by suppliers, or make use of environmental self-assessment questionnaires to find the most sustainability-focused companies.

2)  Don’t Avoid Industry Partnerships

There’s an unspoken rule that you usually don’t help your competitors. But in a joint-venture situation, sharing knowledge, existing sustainable supply chains, and green goals may prove to be profitable for all parties.

Buying in larger volumes from suppliers cuts costs, and maintaining a collaborative approach to tackling industry problems leads to breakthroughs and solutions. With an aligned sustainability vision, you won’t have to divert valuable resources or pay for unnecessary program costs. And accord among all co-workers involved will increase. Look toward stabilizing long-term relationships with industry partners and shared green supply chains.

3)  Track and Maintain Goals

Once you have built a stable sustainability network with both your suppliers and other industry companies, you can start to quantifiably track your objectives on a regular basis.

Actionable goals can be measured through an audit of your practices and those of each link in your green supply chain. An example could be attending green seminars or sustainability training for employees in your network. Another could be a cap on the total amount of waste that goes into making your products or fulfilling your services. Any such goal that your company has should be publicly transparent and internally tracked.

Little goals lend themselves to the big-picture objective of sustainability. Tracking goals will also allow you to form a clear snapshot of your current progress in maintaining a green model of business. And by recording this progress over time, you can more easily chart the course of your corporate sustainability far into the future.

Want to know more about building a green supply chain? Give Hazardous Waste Experts a call at 800-936-2311 to speak with a specialist now or click here to email us.

Photo credit: Srikanth Srinivasan via compfight

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