January 2009 | How-To | Ten Tips

Improving Sustainability in Your Supply Chain

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Sustainability and efficiency are clearly linked in the global supply chain. Companies that want to improve sustainability must become hyper-efficient to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Mike Kelly, chief sustainability officer at YRC Worldwide, offers advice on improving sustainability within your supply chain.

1. Become a sustainability champion. Look at the current economic conditions not as a problem but as an opportunity for your organization. Stay focused on your long-term sustainability goals and realize that, with some creative maneuvering, you can turn an economic headwind into a sustainability tailwind for your efficiency initiatives.

2. Make sustainability a qualifying factor for selecting transportation service providers. You already consider service, reputation, cost, security, and safety when choosing carriers. Add sustainability to the list.

3. Add sustainability to the achievements your organization values. Corporations recognize employees, vendors, and customers for service and safety achievements. Also recognize individuals or teams who improve sustainability within your supply chain.

4. Choose a SmartWay carrier.SmartWay, a voluntary collaboration between various transportation industry sectors and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by six million tons since 2004. Shippers are a key link in the program.

5. Engage your elected officials. Help elected officials understand that the supply chain can be an important part of green economic stimulus investment initiatives. As a new Congress and president come into session, communicate with them. Make sure they know that sustainability investments in the supply chain make sense for the environment and our economy.

6. Start benchmarking. If it matters, it's measured. Once you find the data you need to establish sustainability ratios and benchmarks, you can put that information to analytical work.

7. Get to know an environmentalist. Environmental advocacy groups and non-government organizations were active in sustainability long before the movement swept corporate America. These and other external stakeholders play a pivotal role in global supply chain sustainability and can give supply chain issues credibility in the international arena.

8. Create an internal sustainability task force. Assemble business unit owners in your organization who have a passion for sustainability in their areas, and you will emerge with a dedicated team.

9. Engage your trade association. Sustainability lends itself well to the sharing of best practices, which is particularly valuable when taking public policy considerations into account. Public officials take regulatory action at an industry, not company, level when crafting policy. Trade associations can provide an ideal venue for sharing sustainability best practices, then communicating the positive actions to regulators.

10. Get a "green" education. As a supply chain discipline, sustainability is still fairly new. A variety of resources are available to help you learn, however. Many universities offer sustainability programs, and some industry groups conduct entire conferences on the topic. Add some books to your reading list, such as The Triple Bottom Line by Andy Savitz, which explores sustainability within the context of corporate social responsibility.

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