In August 2019, a group of top industry executives from global leaders such as Apple, General Motors, Oracle, Lockheed Martin and IBM met at Business Roundtable CEOs. They agreed that the current role of businesses in society should no longer be to maximize profits, but to “invest in their employees” to ensure “the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”
With this people-first approach, businesses must renew their dedication to “protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.”
To carry out these goals, organizations will have to conduct business while investing in human well-being and long-term sustainability. These changes don’t need to be drastic. Research shows that even implementing small, ethically-sound changes can make a significant impact.
According to the Human Capital Project’s 2019 global summit in Paris, sustainability starts with people. “Governments and organizations of all sizes and sectors rely on well-trained and equipped people – their human capital,” explained the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability’s Chair Kathy A. Seabrook. This ultimately enables them “to deliver environmental and financial sustainability.”
Supply chain companies have a tendency to think of employees as a pool of labor, rather than individual investments. New technologies are viewed as “labor-saving,” “worker replacement” or for “cost efficiencies.”
The more ethical, human-centric approach is to think of employees as assets that become more valuable to the company when more care and investment is put into them. In this way, technology isn’t so much “labor-saving” as it is “worker augmenting.” New technologies are investments in your human workforce, enhancing productivity, reducing work burden and safety risks, increasing job satisfaction and instilling a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Adopting a people-first approach in the supply chain helps companies operate more effectively and qualitatively while also making employees feel successful and secure in their positions. By empowering your team with greater job quality and ease of work, the company expresses value to employees holistically, which benefits your workers and your business.
Another way to focus on a people-first approach is to empower customers with the foundational tools and expanded knowledge base needed to drive continual operational success. Instead of “selling and forgetting,” companies are ethically obligated to behave in a way that demonstrates reliability, transparency and trustworthiness.
The ethically operated company should provide:
When the needs of both the provider and the customer — and their employees — are placed in equal value, both can be ensured the most successful outcome possible.
As global supply chains become more complex, integrating sustainable practices becomes more complicated. Even though most global supply chain managers recognize its importance, fewer than 20% feel they have the total supply chain visibility necessary to currently make sustainability a priority in their day-to-day operations.
What does sustainability mean for the supply chain?
In short: Minimizing production waste, incorporating more ‘green’ practices and reducing energy consumption.
For example, many warehousing and manufacturing facilities still rely on paper-intensive manual processes. Not only is this methodology slow and outdated, it’s also environmentally unfriendly. Replacing paper-based processes with digital automation technologies like mobile barcoding or automated data collection (ADC) reduces paper waste, disposable paper products and excess packaging. For the business, digitizing paper processes increases accuracy, efficiency, productivity and visibility.
Other benefits of automating manual inventory-handling processes includes reducing on-hand stock levels by 10% and minimizing emergency safety stocks. In turn, this reduces energy consumption for storing extra materials, particularly if that inventory requires special conditions, such as cold storage for ice cream.
Increasing inventory visibility throughout supply chain workflows with real-time technology also contributes to lowering overhead costs, tightening operations and supporting sustainability initiatives.
As times continue to change, supply chain companies must change with it or risk falling behind. By taking small steps toward investing in people and prioritizing sustainability, organizations can help build a safer, more ethical world.
Businesses in the supply chain need to join other top industry leaders to focus on what matters most: people.
When you do, you’ll be joining the forefront of a better supply chain while also gaining long-term benefits that drive consumer trust and prepare your business for the future.
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