In a recent conversation with a large client, I was very encouraged to learn that the responsible supply chain is becoming an integral part of product and packaging strategy for them and also for their competitors. Setting corporate sustainability goals around products and packaging, adhering to national and regional regulations, holding suppliers accountable to become more environmentally and socially conscious, have made it into boardroom discussions and corporate strategy.
Businesses are finally looking at sustainability in product lifecycles as new regulations are being formulated or enforced around the world. Companies are also seeing growing consumer demand for green products. Responsible supply chains span every phase of a product’s lifecycle – design, manufacturing, packaging, transportation and disposal.
Below is a sample of questions businesses should ask of themselves to understand how to be more responsible:
- Design: How do we reduce the use of material (dematerialize) and impact to the environment (decarbonize)? Or have early considerations been given to make the product conducive to remanufacturing or recycling after its end of life?
- Manufacturing: What portion of the product is made out of renewable, recycled, or remanufactured material? How efficient are the manufacturing processes from material use, energy consumption, emission and waste generation viewpoints?
- Packaging: While ensuring that the functional requirements of packaging are not compromised, what proportion of the total material is reused, recycled and renewable? Are there any banned non-recyclable material used in the packaging? What metrics are multi-brand retail customers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco using to rank and manage the sustainability performance of their suppliers are you prepared to adhere to such customer scorecards.
- Transportation: Are you considering the impact that shipping has on the environment? Have you considered optimal vehicle design to improve fuel efficiency? What clean fuel sourcing strategy do you have in place or are considering? Have you enforced truck idling reduction policies or made investments in optimizing route planning?
Managing and maintaining an optimal harmony among what goes as input to the supply chain, what is made and how much goes as waste is critical to responsible supply chain and to good product stewardship. In my next blog I will write about life after the end of life of a product and how it can be a powerful solution to reducing waste and curtailing pollution.