Rethinking Green: 4 Questions for Supply Chain Sustainability

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Jun 22, 2016
Companies need the right data to plan green supply chains.
Companies need the right data to plan green supply chains.

Once a company decides to go green, the next question they have to ask is: How? Eliminating waste in supply chain logistics management is a noble - and often profitable - goal, but how can a company set eco-friendly standards and ensure expectations are met?

There are traditional best practices and regulations devised by government officials and environmental organizations. Businesses may decide to follow these when designing green manufacturing, shipping and warehouse management procedures. The problem is conventional standards are always changing, and what worked yesterday may not be the greenest option today. Here are four questions supply chain logistics managers should ask themselves when contemplating eco-friendly actions:

1. How Do You Put Ideas Into Action?
As companies prioritize going green, they should start by turning their sights internally. Warehouse managers and supply chain leaders need to know exactly where resources currently go to waste and where improvements through modern technology and other green opportunities exist.

The University of Pennsylvania detailed how health organizations tried to streamline their supply chains for medical equipment and work with eco-conscious partners. When a hospital buying group put together a list of questions to determine if a supply resource was the greenest option available, the sheer amount of inquiries were daunting to potential partners and internal staff.

Businesses should avoid doing too much too fast. Managers may want to try to implement one green initiative at a time and then use automated data collection systems to measure how effective changes were and where similar adjustments can easily be made.

2. Where Should Eco-Conscious Consumers Go?
Consumers may assume that it's greener to buy a product online than to get in their car and drive to the store. Supply Chain Management Review said that this is not always the case and green eco-friendly solutions are not always the most obvious choice.

The amount of energy it takes to ship goods across the sea could far outweigh the carbon emissions created by consumers making trips to the mall. If a business studies existing industry research and internal data to discover the most energy-efficient ways customers can obtain goods, it needs to share the findings with consumers.

When a business has data collection solutions that help create accurate representations of current operations and projections for future activities, this information is valuable to consumers who want to make smart decisions. In some cases, brands may have to teach the public why a business's plan is the greenest choice by sharing accurate data.

3. What are Partners Doing?
If businesses are truly committed to being green and socially conscious, they need eyes on every link of their supply chain. This will involve prioritizing data collection in every business department and from every storage and distribution partner.

Companies need to communicate their commitment to smart resource allocation and other green practices during the beginning of partnerships. CFO magazine said businesses that want lean and quick supply chains - hallmarks of waste reduction - need to have rapid and effective communication with suppliers. Mobile data collection devices can provide each employee with the ability to send and capture updates, these solutions can also help business representatives speak in real time with outside parties.

4. When Will the Government Step In?
Supply chains that use data collection solutions can gain timely insight into consumer demand. Often, green initiatives occur in response to public opinions. If companies don't respond to consumer needs, government officials may remove the decisions from business leaders. GreenBiz said companies should try to follow the news and prepare for new regulations coming down the pike.

Lean and green supply chains must always be flexible and agile. Information systems should help companies predict how potential regulations will affect current operations and assist companies in changing over procedures to follow new rules. 

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