Moving toward supply chain sustainability
You probably don’t want to, but think back to March. We needed a lot of things we couldn’t get. PPE, masks, and toilet paper were the items that stuck out in our minds, but there were very few supply chains that weren’t disrupted. Items that were in supply suddenly couldn’t get to their markets or saw their markets dry up. Farmers plowed over valuable crops and poured out millions of gallons of milk. It was an awful situation that highlighted the weaknesses of our supply chains. While there’s not a whole lot that can be done about perishables in this regard, the “just in time” efficiency of many supply chains proved a major liability. Since March, companies have turned their attention to resiliency in all things, with supply chain sustainability at top of mind.
Why it matters
A Coyote Logistics survey found that 81% of companies place more focus on supply chain sustainability now than they did three years ago. That’s not only because the pandemic threw them for a loop. It’s also because customers voting with their wallets have shown that they care about how the things they buy are made and how they get to them.
“Sustainable practices and operations are now the expectation among customers and key stakeholders. As a result, supply chain professionals need to prioritize these initiatives across their entire networks to achieve continued success,” Coyote Transportation Management senior vice president Mike Sinkovitz said. “The study’s data clearly outlined this juxtaposition between consumers’ desire for quick deliveries and sustainable shipping practices. Delivering on both requires a holistic, collaborative effort from all members of the supply chain.”
Cost optimization can’t be the only factor in building a supply chain, HP chief commercial officer Christoph Schell wrote. People are major links in the chain, and taking their interests and well-being into account is crucial for building supply chain sustainability that is kept humming along by happy, well-paid workers in factories, in freight, and in warehouses.
“Business leaders, especially those in technology, have an obligation to build the supply chain of the future with an unwavering commitment to human rights and safe practices for all workers,” Schell wrote.
Given the acceleration of e-commerce trends COVID-19 sparked, supply chain jobs are plentiful, and workers will have plenty of options to choose from. They’ll go where they’re treated well.
How to get there
Selling more Oeko-Tex-certified products that are free of harmful chemicals is one reason J.C. Penney is a finalist for the EPA’s SmartWay Excellence Award, as is using more recycled and biodegradable packaging. The retailer is also part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which helps suppliers with energy management and tracking the social impacts of their products.
SmartWay-registered freight carrier Hunter Express has embraced tracking technology to deliver the goods sustainably. “Trucking companies are being transformed by technology, and at Hunter Express, we’ve been investing in building infrastructure, such as implementing state-of-the-art TruckMate TMS, which enables us to serve a much wider set of customers at lower cost with the help of AI,” COO Meraj Aftab told BOSS.
“Right now, society and business have been forced into a very different modus operandi,” Vizibl founder Mark Perera said at the COLLABORATE 2020 summit. “The long-term consequences of COVID-19 are not clear as the readjustment continues, yet for supplier collaboration, the pandemic has clearly demonstrated the imperative for streamlining supplier ecosystems, challenging organizations to think differently about how they collaborate and how they must change direction at a moment’s notice.”
EcoVadis rates suppliers from more than 160 countries on 21 criteria including environmental performance, labor and human rights, and sustainable procurement.
“Sustainability and ESG performance are quickly becoming the new benchmark for comparing organizations against their competitors,” co-founder Pierre-Francois Thaler said at the summit. “Innovation and resilience, fostered by sustainability, are how organizations and their supply chains will create value in a pandemic-ready, low-carbon future.”
It’s not just a buzzword, it’s a way forward, and companies that rebound well from the COVID-19 pandemic will have supply chain sustainability.