Every year, April 22 is celebrated as International Earth Day: a day to create public awareness about pollution and effects of various human actions that hurt the natural environment. While the day is commonly celebrated with rallies, conferences and outdoor activities, it is also an appropriate time for supply chain professionals to consider the importance of sustainability innovation and injecting fresh life into your company’s sustainability program. Here are five straightforward ideas for elevating your sustainability program for Earth Day and moving toward new successes in the next year.
You can create better opportunities for improvement by doing business with best-in-class sustainability performers, such as ones that drive carbon and water footprint reduction, and which can potentially help you in these areas. This approach will help create relationships conducive to innovative thinking, technology transfer and continuous improvement while helping to present a positive image to customers and employees.
Sometimes a potential sustainability initiative might result in overall supply chain improvement, but because a participating company perceives that it will be impacted in a negative way, it might resist the change and thereby threaten the project. To proactively address or prevent such resistance, sustainability professionals should first look for sustainability wins that positively impact every link in the supply chain. When that is not possible, network with other participants to ameliorate any perceived pain points that stand in the way of important sustainability projects. It may be that the pain points are only short term in nature. A longer term approach involving new technologies might result in a positive outcome for all parties involved.
Before looking externally to improve your sustainability mission, consider reviewing existing best practices to ensure they are replicated across the board. For example, are all of your company’s divisions dedicated to creative food waste diversion and innovative recycling initiatives? Programs that already thrive within your organization should prove to be good candidates for transfer elsewhere in other company divisions with similar corporate cultures. The use of RPCs is another case in point. Is it possible that your operation is only scratching the surface in terms of reaping the benefits it might enjoy if more product was being packed in RPCs?
A blueprint of practical sustainability ideas listed by the World Economic Forum’s Beyond Supply Chains offers 31 concrete action items, covering the supply chain from product development through to recycling and reverse logistics. Some suggestions such as recycling and the use of reusable packaging are more straightforward to implement, while others, such as green building and network redesign are much more resource intensive and challenging to address. Beyond such lists, new technologies and business models continue to emerge to provide perishable professionals with new opportunities for improvement.
Telling the stories of internal successes can be a powerful tool in helping to successfully replicate them, as well as motivate staff. While a discussion of sustainability KPIs can be quickly forgotten, a compelling sustainability story will have a much more lasting effect. More importantly, research suggests that people are interested in a company’s sustainability aspirations. According to one survey, 86 percent of people believe companies should place the same emphasis on social interests as they do on business interests. "We’ve reached a point in time where the ability to communicate purpose is instrumental to the success of any new venture," Thomas Kolster, author of Goodvertising, told Sustainable Brands.
As you hit barriers to moving your sustainability program forward, it may be useful to take a step back and revisit your sustainability aspirations to find new solutions and tell better stories. Through networking thoughtfully with like-minded best-in-class service providers and addressing supply chain pain points, you may experience greater success in achieving engagement and propelling further sustainability breakthroughs.
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