Ways to Create a Green Supply Chain for a Sustainable Future

green supply chainFor modern businesses, the need to achieve operational efficiencies, deliver quality customer service and achieve environmental goals is important. For this reason, the supply chain plays a vital role in enabling the achievement of business goals. Ultimately, the use of a ‘green’ supply chain can be used to deliver – and exceed upon – customer expectations.

The Right Time for Businesses to Investigate

Now is the ideal time for businesses to investigate the options for their ‘green’ supply chain. This refers to the traditional supply model, using suppliers and processes which are environmentally friendly and as sustainable as possible. The benefits of taking this approach are multiple – lower costs through greater efficiencies, better customer satisfaction through the use of quality processes and sustainable measures, a chance to operate as a truly sustainable and environmentally friendly business, a differentiator for marketing strategies and a powerful boost to any corporate social responsibility agenda. The approach can also help businesses to meet quality standards, as well as meet their compliance and regulatory requirements.

Greening Factors

A number of companies have already introduced ‘greening’ factors into their supply chains for both downstream and upstream supply. This approach affects terms of purchasing, business targets, operational practices and technologies used. The strategy overall involves examining each element of the supply chain and identifying opportunities to deliver it in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. It can be a series of simple measures or a complex overall system with a high level of automation and technological investment.

Ease of Introduction

For example, a logistic firm that deals with pallets on a large scale could seek to recycle heat treated pallets, only buy those which can be re-used multiple times or agree to a re-use policy with the supplier to cut costs rather than produce them from new each time. Similarly, that same logistics firm could invest in technology to ensure that no delivery was ever half-stocked and to maximise space utilisation in delivery vans and vehicles for warehouse transport and deliveries. That same business might also want to buy recycled materials from green suppliers and enter into a scheme to offset its carbon emissions.

Managing Challenges

There are, of course, challenges to working in this way. Sometimes, it simply isn’t possible to replicate the low costs of providers that operate in non-sustainable ways. Recycling and sustainability will sometimes have an added cost attached for the provision of extra quality, and the business will need to identify other opportunities for efficiencies to keep a cap on costs overall and to remain competitive. This is achievable, however. For example, for a business an investment in more enduring reusable pallet solutions, which could be re-used for a longer period of time to minimise waste, could be offset by the introduction of energy-saving measures and insulation within offices or warehousing premises.

Now is an excellent time to begin investigating the potential of a green supply chain, and there are various organisations and publicly funded bodies available to help businesses to achieve their sustainability goals, as well as tools, frameworks and quality initiatives to help businesses to approach the task in a simple, logical and customer-friendly way.

John Shawyer is Director of Associated Pallets

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