Different industries are approaching the issue of sustainability with varying initiatives—whether It’s reducing plastic in packaging within consumer goods and retail, or developing technology to increase efficiency in the automotive sector—but what about more holistic changes in the supply chain that affect functions across a number of sectors?
On the whole, companies are always looking to increase the efficiency of their supply chain to mitigate risk, reduce costs and drive innovation. So what does supply chain sustainability mean for business? It means ethical sourcing and sustainable procurement (i.e. letting customers trace their products back to their origins) with the ultimate aim of driving a positive impact. It also creates a balancing act between a company’s financial targets and their environmental responsibilities.
One company that’s taking steps to promote a more sustainable supply chain is Nestlé, which recently announced its collaboration with Open SC, a supply chain food provenance blockchain founded through a partnership between the WWF and the Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures. This will allow Nestlé to track the origins of its products. Blockchain news source, Ledger Insights, reports that this pilot will trace the supply chain of New Zealand milk to factories in the Middle East. It will move on to confirming palm oil sustainability in Nestlé products. This can easily be expanded to eventually cover all products.
This system allows customers to scan a QR code on a product, instantly revealing all information about its journey through the supply chain—confirming where the raw materials originated from and how sustainable every process up to the final product was. The idea is that this will show customers how ethical, environmentally friendly and legally compliant goods are.
It’s not just transparency surrounding the sourcing of raw materials that makes a supply chain sustainable. In the manufacturing and production stages, companies are moving towards a zero-emissions manufacturing process, reducing things like water wastage and developing data-driven technology that will make processes more efficient.
There has been a lot of pressure on the packaging process in particular, as customers are increasingly reticent about purchasing plastics or materials that aren’t environmentally friendly and recyclable. Until recycling processes are improved and eco-friendly materials are more affordable to use, this will be the supply chain’s biggest challenge in achieving sustainability.
When it comes to logistics and transportation, technology is facilitating more efficient processes, whether it’s reducing distance travelled or emissions. Other ways that this step in the supply chain can become even greener include ensuring that transport vehicles are maintained and that waste of transport, whether it’s oil or used tyres, can be recycled.
Finally, even after a product moves through the supply chain, programmes and projects must exist to deter waste from entering landfills, whether by encouraging donations, recycling or buying back used items from customers.
If you’re currently working in a supply chain function and want to be part of the exciting supply chain sustainability movement, why not get in touch to see what roles are available in this space?
by Brad Knoxview my profile