Shifting Towards a Sustainable Supply Chain

by SBP360 on December 19, 2012

Over recent years ‘sustainability’ has gone from a buzz word to a driver for change in almost any industry. Companies have realized great value in the triple bottom line-people, profit, planet-and have taken a serious look at how they can be a part of the Sustainable Business Movement. The initiative to take action within internal operations and external supply chain networks is great, but where to start? Do you know what to measure?  Who in your organization is responsible for collection?  What is the frequency for collection and how will it be reported?

Some years ago now, The Green Market blogged about Walmart and HP Sustainable Supply Chains leveraging their buying power to increase sustainability throughout their supply chains. Even then most changes related to sustainability made in organizations were powered from the bottom up, but HP and Walmart’s sustainable supply chain programs were being touted as pushed from the top down. This change of pace is now commonplace as companies place responsibility not only on themselves, but also their suppliers.

Implementing sustainability throughout a supply chain is not an easy task; much of this is derived from the lack of standardization in the measurement process. Many organizations do not know where to begin measuring nor do they understand what data will give them the most accurate comparison to their competitors or what type of information stockholders and consumers are interested in seeing. This often leads to a mass data grab for companies in hopes that something collected will hold the key to pleasing their buyers.  It becomes important to gain buy-in from your suppliers – they will help, but they need to feel like your intrusion into their business is meaningful for long-term, repeatable success.

What we recommend to companies is to sprinkle sustainable metrics with what would appear to be more common business metrics.  Of course, we know business and sustainable have the same meaning, but to a supplier, your timing on asking for a triple bottom line culture engagement should be timed with asking for them to upload their ISO certificate or the status of a strike impending deliveries, for example.  We find then suppliers engage more frequently and with better compliance.  Your interface is also important – it needs to be clean and without a lot of words, no one has time to read the “why we need to green the planet” – suppliers are busy – get in, collect what you need – get out.

Lastly, if you are spending all of your days putting all that data into excel followed by trying to sell it internally in powerpoint or excel, we recommend the SBP360 software which reports in 1 click, in real-time.  This way you can focus on analyzing the data, not publishing it.

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