Green Supply Chain Management: Strategies for Success

green supply chain managementEveryone’s talking about going green these days. No matter what industry you’re in, new legislation and consumer awareness will demand that your business takes action to improve its environmental footprint, and one of the best place do that is within your supply chain. Of course, not all businesses can employ identical models. But one thing’s for sure: you’ll need an agile marketing strategy and a sound communication platform to start.

If you’re starting your supply chain model from the ground up, get some tips for how to create a successful model with this course. While you’re doing that, keep in mind these tips for how to be more green in your supply chain operations.

Implement New Technologies

We live in an age of constant improvement. New technologies and processes are helping businesses to become more efficient than ever before. If your business is still using older technologies, upgrading is a great way to be greener. By upgrading the inventory management system, you can reduce holding costs associated with storing large inventory supplies. Actual usage data should be used to determine demand better than traditional methods of replenishing. New and efficient communication technologies that give you real-time data are your best bet for streamlining your warehousing and logistics costs. Employ software that monitors energy output on computers across your operation, and always keep an eye out for new programs that can enhance your operation. If you’re in retail, start here with a course in how retail supply chains have evolved.

Traceable Origins and Supplier Management

Product origin is increasingly important to consumers. One way to gain more control on the supply side is to form a relationship with your suppliers’ suppliers. Say you’re a department store, and you sell sheets. When negotiating, don’t just talk to your sheet supplier, talk to the folks who source the cotton. Generally speaking both the hotel chain and cotton supplier are bigger operations than the sheet making middle-man. Get involved with everyone at either end of the supply chain, and sort out what makes sense for all parties. Chances are you can come up with competitive and efficient strategies that benefit all involved. This practice gives you a chance to evaluate raw materials and manufacturing processes to promote the green elements that work best for your business. Maybe there’s a new process to soften the cotton, so you can get a more luxurious feel? Can you advertise that your sheets are sustainably sourced? Can you get a reduced price for organic cotton? The crux is: you’re going to gain more control over what you’re buying and that means more simplicity, a more efficient process, and more opportunity to leverage green considerations. Whether it’s reducing packaging or eliminating excess washing, talking to the big guys at the other end is where to start.

Product Considerations

Using sustainably-sourced materials that are recyclable is one way to make your product more environmentally friendly. Get your design team on board with your green priorities or hire a design agency to help re-invent your product. While you’re at it, ask yourself: is your production process as efficient and chemical-free as possible? Is the packaging minimal and recyclable? How much of the raw material is being wasted? Can you eliminate that waste? What are the end of life cycle considerations for your products? Those final considerations are critical for conveying to your customers that the environment matters to your business. Offer incentives to have customers return their old item so you can recapture usable materials. If you’re using specialized pieces or parts made of expensive commodities, recycling those parts may well prove beneficial to your bottom line.

Transportation and Warehousing

Without question, streamlining the transportation, warehousing and distribution of your supplies is a great place to implement green initiatives. Is your warehouse strategically located? Is the layout optimized? Have your trucks been chosen and tested for minimum emissions? Have you considered alternative transport options like rail? Do your warehouses have energy efficient systems such as automatic or low-energy lighting? Do you know all there is to know about managing your inventory with Oracle? Are your trucks on the most efficient routes with the least empty cargo space? If your transportation network needs a balanced risk management framework, you can easily learn some new strategies that you can implement immediately.

Choosing Green Partners

Your business needs to demonstrate its commitment to the environment by selecting partners who also embrace those ideals. Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s both demand sustainable practices from their farmers. Do you hold your partners to the same standard? Actively seek companies that are independently certified and double-check their performance track-record on things like emissions. Research shows, the sooner you do this, the sooner you can reap the benefits of sustained competitive advantage. Be the first in your industry to seek out the most sustainable suppliers and you can capitalize on that relationship for years to come while edging out your competition.

In-House Eco-Efficiency Leaders

Implementing eco-efficiency strategies across your organization requires good communication, leadership, and green champions. Appoint people within your organization to promote and explain your environmental agenda. Make that person available to received feedback when employees have ideas for other ways to reduce waste or energy usage. You need someone to keep suppliers in check and ensure that they’re keeping their word when it comes to carbon neutrality or best practices. Without that oversight, it’s unlikely your organization will truly achieve your environmental objectives. Without some in-house leadership, it’s unlikely your employees will take green considerations to heart.

Unique Business Propositions

In the dairy industry, the biggest threat to the environment comes from cows passing gas. Seriously. Imagine what an environmental boon it would be to develop a Bean-o or Gas-X for cows or to modify the dietary staples. The point is: your business can and should develop green strategies that are specifically tailored to your unique business. If you could provide a gas-reducing drug for cows, you could even have another profitable revenue stream on your hands. If there’s a unique problem in your industry, aim to be the one who solves it.

Value Enhancement

You already know that some consumers are willing to pay more for labels like ‘fair-trade,’ ‘cruelty free’ and ‘organic.’ If your business has taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint, maximize your marketing message and advertise it aggressively.

In the final analysis, a green supply chain is beneficial for consumers, producers, and corporations alike, and the sooner you can implement some eco-changes, the more competitive your business will become. Take the initiative to drive your organization in the right direction. If you need some help on how to lead and manage change, there’s a course for that. After all, it’s only the fate of the planet in your hands. Right?