Back to the basics of supply chain sustainability

‘Sustainability’ is one of the biggest words in supply chain right now – and for good reason. Supply chain companies need to be managing climate-related emissions across all parts of the supply chain, which includes suppliers, manufacturers, logistics, and any other partners involved in the process. But while the word is being tossed around every boardroom, it’s easy to let the actual work fall by the wayside and never materialise. When it comes to supply chain sustainability, it’s best to go back to the basics and set your business clear but manageable goals. Here are three main things to consider when starting to build your sustainability agenda:  

A Strategy Fit For Purpose 

Supply chain sustainability begins with strategy: what are you trying to achieve? This is a fundamental question that most slip up on when trying to develop a sustainability strategy. As a supply chain leader, your impact on the environment is sizeable; many take this as a challenge to solve the world’s environmental problems. This isn’t a feasible approach to take. The desired outcome for your business should be far simpler – take a look at what your business is trying to achieve, rather than mankind as a whole, and start from there. However, it is imperative that your sustainability agenda become part of your overall business plan, evaluated just as consistently and regularly as your other business benchmarks, like profit and retention. 

Once you’ve established what your sustainability strategy is, it’s time to come up with KPIs and metrics to measure your impact. Your solutions should be data-driven, measurable, attainable, and time-bound. Start by evaluating your current sustainability shortcomings and pinpoint some manageable goals to start with. This could even be as simple as committing to eliminate single-use plastics in your supply chain by a certain year.  

Utilising Talent to Its Maximum Potential 

If you’re still uncertain on the best way to approach sustainability, it’s advisable to look into investing in a professional. Hiring someone with the sole purpose of developing, implementing, and measuring sustainability initiatives is becoming more and more common as companies can’t afford to lose out on business due to unethical or unsustainable supply chain practices. The role of the Chief Sustainability Officer is what the role of Chief Diversity Officer was ten years ago – a role that is still relatively young, but rapidly growing in importance, soon to become a business imperative. If your business is growing and you want to set up to be fit for purpose, it may be time to establish a sustainability function and begin recruiting for it.  

The most crucial component of a successful sustainability strategy is getting your workforce behind it. Sustainability initiatives can’t be spearheaded by one person – to be effective, they need the support and backing of multiple people. When developing your sustainability strategy, listen to input and feedback from your staff across all levels. Cross-collaboration is a cornerstone of meaningful development and can often yield the most effective solutions. For example, consulting giant EY regularly partners with SAP and Microsoft for collaborative purposes, using their shared network of knowledge to find the best course of action for their clients.  

A Culture of Sustainability 

A culture of sustainability doesn’t just mean giving all your staff reusable coffee mugs; it means instilling a mindset of circularity in all things. Invest in workshops and training to help your staff work sustainably, whether that be through self-care or streamlining work processes to free up more time in the day. Ultimately, sustainability in all its applications should ideally be rooted in your company culture. This will result in better collaboration, retention, and productivity, by encouraging all your employees to think about the long-term and how to manage themselves to be fit for the future.  

Lastly, take a holistic, but consistent approach to your sustainability strategy. It should be a constant item on the agenda in your boardrooms, with regular updates to the rest of the business. By incorporating this culture of sustainability consistently starting at the executive level, the rest of your business will inevitably find itself following suit. We expect many businesses across the global supply chain to hop on the trend of bringing in short-term consultants and collaborators to help get the ball rolling. The hardest part is starting – a step made much easier by finding the best talent out there to help you build and implement your vision of a sustainable future for your company.  

Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with all the latest trends and developments taking place across the end-to-end supply chain. Proco Global remains available to discuss any of the ideas mentioned above and how we can help you implement your vision of the future through finding the best talent out there. For more insights, visit https://www.procoglobal.com/insights. 

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