Four steps to sustainability

14 October 2019

Sustainability is becoming increasingly crucial to both consumers and key stakeholders alike, with research from Unilever finding that one in three consumers choose brands based on their social and environmental credentials.

Given this, as well as the UK’s legally-binding pledge to be net zero-emission by 2050, it’s critical for companies to ensure that their entire supply chain is as environmentally-friendly as possible to avoid any damaging backlash.

But how to go about this?

1. Build a business case

Key to ensuring that greener supply chain initiatives are implemented long term is having the right foundations in place, which means first building the business case for action. This helps to build internal support for greener business practices, evaluate any potential risks and also help identify the areas where action is most needed to make the supply chain more environmentally-friendly.  

2. Decide on objectives early

Having clear objectives in place from the beginning of the project will be invaluable for shaping the overall sustainability strategy. Not only this, but it also makes it far easier to gauge how successful sustainability projects have been, as it’s clear where objectives have been met.

C-suite buy-in is also key for taking any concept from inception to execution. Given this, senior executives should be actively involved throughout the process, helping to shape the objectives and overall vision from the beginning.

3. Work in partnership with sustainable suppliers

While it’s difficult to have complete control over the practices of every third party they work with, businesses should prioritise working with those that share their values, business goals and environmental standards.

Creating a supplier code of conduct is a particularly effective way for businesses to involve suppliers in their green efforts, while ensuring their sustainability expectations are communicated effectively.

4. Consider logistics

Businesses should also take a closer look at their logistics network to identify any inefficiencies that could be improved upon. Companies should look at their current fleet size, vehicle makeup and geographic spread, as well as where their distribution centres are located, to determine any areas of inefficiency or wasted resource. It’s also important to look at customer order profiles and delivery requirements to see if these are changing, and whether they can be influenced to the benefit of both parties and ultimately the end customer.

Through this companies can minimise wastage, making their supply chain far more sustainable, bringing financial and environmental benefits, and also ensuring that their supply chain operations are adaptable to future change.

Overall, as the UK continues its march towards a carbon-neutral future, greener business practices are only set to rise in importance. It’s therefore essential that businesses look at their supply chains now in order to avoid incurring potentially-serious financial and reputational damage further down the line.

☛ John Perry is managing director at consultancy SCALA

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