The three tiers of sustainability

29 July 2013
More and more companies are realising it actually is easy “being green”. With so much emphasis on eco-friendliness in the day-to-day goings-on of different businesses, the role of sustainability in supply chains is growing, not shrinking. Sustainability is just the latest addition to logistics networking concerns. Where concerns previously surrounded timeliness of shipping and reducing costs, now the global impact of running a business needs to be factored in. But assessing sustainability, unlike timeliness or cost, is more difficult because it requires businesses to project factors beyond their control, such as supplier and customer behavior and practices. There are three tiers of sustainability developed by The Future Laboratory for better, more eco-friendly practices. As a company grows in sustainability, it moves up through the tiers and sustainability becomes more integrated.
  1. Getting the basics right means employees enact sustainable policies that they probably already use at home, in the office. Turning lights and computers off when not in use, recycling paper, using more eco-friendly methods of travel (bikes, carpooling, and public transport) to reduce carbon footprints, and perhaps even telecommuting when necessary are all little ideas that take on the first tier of the role of sustainability in supply chains. While better than nothing, it is not much.
  2. Learning to think sustainably expands common ecological practices and begins to apply them to the larger business infrastructure. By assessing their ecological impact across a range of operations, companies see exactly how their practices impact on a local and global level. Some changes in supplier management, product design, manufacturing practices, and shipping and distributing overhauls happen at this tier, enabling an optimised structure of running things.
  3. The science of sustainability goes beyond the obvious or the observable into a full-scale audit of how things are run and how they can be run. At this level, companies map out a plan for long-term sustainability and establish milestones and markers to assess their progress over time. This assessment plans in depth, how implementing sustainability over time warrants adjustments to cost, agility, flexibility, and efficiency. The regulation of several types of businesses by government agencies, along with the overall “cheapness” of going green in the long run, is a major push for companies to achieve this final tier.
In the long run, sustainable practices cut out waste and guarantee that a company can continue to operate effectively, despite global changes. Robert Hall is president of Track Your Truck
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