More attention for people, planet & profit in your supply chain

The concept of 'sustainability' has clearly gained publicity in recent years. However, the concept of sustainability itself is rather general and unclear. In this article I will explain what is often meant by sustainability in the business world, and describe what exactly the transformation to a sustainable supply chain entails.

Sustainability as an understanding

The general acceptedsustainability green imageThe concept of 'sustainability' is often based on the definition of the Brundtlandt Commission, which describes sustainability as "Using resources to meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to measure their own needs". However, this concept has turned out to be too general for companies and most companies often refer to 'in their reports'.people, planet & profit'. This means that companies strive to achieve social, environmental and financial objectives in their operations. If companies pursue these goals at the same time and the goals are in balance (eg the social objective is not at the expense of the environmental and financial objectives), then there is sustainable management.

What is changing for your organization?

A sustainable supply chain comprises the same primary activities as a regular supply chain, with the main difference being that in a sustainable supply chain attention is paid to the three sustainable elements (people, planet, profit). Examples of sustainability in the supply chain are preventing child labor, increasing employee engagement (people), reducing waste, reducing energy consumption (planet) and profits (profit).

It is important to realize that a sustainable initiative in your company leads to a chain reaction in your entire supply chain. For example, adapting your product design means that your suppliers must provide you with sustainable means of production. The transformation to a sustainable supply chain therefore requires more communication and cooperation within your supply chain.

Why do organizations choose a sustainable supply chain?

The decision to make the supply chain more sustainable does not make companies completely independent, often external and internal factors play a role. Most companies find that external factors have the most influence on their decision to opt for a sustainable supply chain. The three main external factors that influence this are legislation, demand from the customer and demand from other stakeholders (eg suppliers). Other external factors that play a role are gaining competitive advantage, pressure from interest groups (eg Greenpeace) and potential reputational damage.

The internal factors that can also play a role are the presence of a win-win situation and the presence of a 'go-getter'. The 'go-getter' is often a person within the organization who firmly believes in sustainability and also actively tries to create support among colleagues. This person can be the connecting factor within an organization and helps enormously in removing possible resistance. There is a win-win situation when the organization does not have to weigh the various elements of sustainability (eg a social initiative also provides benefits for the environment or turnover).

In which steps do you make the transition to a sustainable supply chain?

1. The pursuit of sustainability in your internal processes           flowchart-1

In the first phase, you adapt the internal processes of your organization by incorporating the basic principles of sustainability into your activities. The first phase aims to reduce, reuse and recycle your raw materials (the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). Social activities such as employee engagement and well-being also belong to the first phase.

2. Hthe pursuit of sustainability in your external strategy

Now that the basic principles of sustainability have been laid down in your processes, it is important to include your external environment as well. The second phase focuses on the pursuit of a circular supply chain, where you, for example, reconsider the production process and non-recyclable raw materials.

3. Theflowchart-4 further improve your sustainable strategy

After you have taken the first two steps, introducing sustainability into your processes and involving third parties, it is important to further develop your internal processes. In the third phase, your organization will become a pioneer in the field of sustainability. Activities that are part of a role as a pioneer are the redesign of your product with a circular supply chain and the three R's of 'Reduce, Reuse and Recycle'as starting points. The main difference with the first two phases is that sustainability is no longer a side issue, but sustainability is the starting point for your business.

 4. Developing sustainability as core competences

In the final phase sustainability is seen as a core competency within your organization and the consumer considers the sustainable nature of your products to be distinctive. Sustainability is now included as standard in the development of new processes and products.

At this moment you are able to concisely describe the transformation to a sustainable supply chain. You know what companies mean by sustainability, what changes in the supply chain, which factors influence and in which four steps the transformation to a sustainable supply chain takes place. Balancing your financial, environmental and social objectives means that your business is sustainable, and that your organization's longevity is guaranteed.

Supply Value is currently conducting various studies into making the supply chain more sustainable. Would you like to receive an extensive step-by-step plan for creating support within your organization soon? Or does your organization have experience in creating support for a sustainable initiative, and are you willing to participate in our research? Please do not hesitate to contact us without any obligation.

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