Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
Sustainability is one of the fastest-growing supply chain management trends, and the impact on sellers promises to be huge. But it doesn’t have to be painful. Aly Pinder of Aberdeen and Thomas Odenwald of SAP share ideas and strategies that turn sustainability stress into success. Read more
Each company’s journey towards sustainability starts with a trigger event (either internal or external), is informed by others and the events around them, and changes as knowledge and skills develop over time. For companies today, the triggers are many: climate change, new customer expectations, an increased focus on cost and risk management, a changing marketplace, and the opportunity to access new markets.
While the need to comply with government regulations and cut costs definitely plays a role in the heightened focus on sustainability, new drivers have taken center stage in recent years, including:
- Self-imposed goals by industry thought leaders.
- Escalating customer concern about how and where products are made.
- Brand differentiation that goes beyond lip service.
- Sustainability’s power to boost efficiency and service.
1. Get ready to give greater detail. Maybe you already know the exact amounts of particulate matter your factory expends or the kilowatt hours your solar panels save you every month. But when it comes to your own sources of supply, the picture can get murky fast. If a key customer started asking how much fertilizer is used to produce each apple you sell, or whether all your 3T materials are sourced from certified smelters, would you know the answer?
2. Secure leadership and funding first. As Aberdeen research shows, effective implementation depends on executive leadership, since that sets the tone for your sustainability efforts across the organization.
3. Build a culture of sustainability. "Whether you have seven employees or 7,000, it’s all about building the culture you want in your company and putting sustainability at the center,” Aly says. Use the lens of sustainability for everything you do. “It’s not a one-off, once-a-year thing, but something your organization is built around on a day-to-day basis. And that trickles down from your leaders to all employees, showing them this is how we want to move forward, this is integral to the way we see the future of our business.” How can you get there?
4. Think circular, not linear. Rather than focusing sustainability on pieces of your production process or specific “end-of-pipe” results, look at the entire lifecycle in a given process. For example, a cradle-to-grave approach to OEM design considers the environmental impact of not only how a product is produced, distributed, used, and repaired, but also how it’s disposed of or recycled. “If you think up front about the end outcome when you’re purchasing or putting something on a shop floor, it should all positively impact your sustainability initiative,” Aly says.
5. Dream big with decoupling. Sustainability leaders aim high by joining aggressive expansion and sustainability targets. “You want to decouple your growth aspirations as a business from further negative environmental or social impacts; that’s the ultimate goal,” says Thomas, noting that Unilever has committed to double its size while halving its environmental impact by 2020. “That’s very, very aspirational, and it includes their complete supply chain as well.”
- Companies profit from embracing sustainability by MIT News
- 4 reasons why your business should embrace sustainability by Technical.ly
- Organizing for Success on Sustainability by Accenture
- The DAC Guidelines Strategies for Sustainable Development: Guidance for Development Co-operation by Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development
- EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/index.htm