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February 02, 2016

Setting Up a Green Supply Chain in 2016

Amidst international talks on climate change, growing environmental concerns and 2015's new title of hottest year on record, companies are recognizing the need to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon. This is being further fueled (no pun intended) by new goals to slow the pace of global warming. I know what you're thinking....recycling at home seems manageable enough, but going green across an entire supply chain, and a global supply chain at that? Where do I even begin? 

green_supply_chain-1.jpgVector Source

First things first: you need to understand exactly what a green supply chain is. It's one that consistently strives to conserve energy and resources, ultimately eliminating environmental waste during manufacturing and distribution processes. Below are some steps you can take to make your supply chain a little greener in 2016.

1 | Manufacturing

If asked whether your suppliers would be considered "green" manufacturers, what would you say? Regardless of your response, how confidently could you answer this question? It's important to know what's going on behind your suppliers' doors. Work on digging into this to discover which green practices your suppliers are incorporating (or have plans to incorporate) in the manufacturing process. 

A shift may be necessary to go green, so being open to shifting suppliers is a good place to start. Making a jump could potentially mean reducing carbon emissions and even your total product cost. Draft a set of standards or goals you have for going green, and promise to work only with suppliers who meet or exceed these standards.

2 | Packaging

How efficient is your packaging? Does it involve complicated, unnecessary components? Is space optimized? Is it fully recyclable by the end user? Is the material biodegradable? Conduct a detailed review of your packaging to determine exactly how much waste is produced. Recent advances in packaging materials have allowed for a reduction in mass without compromising efficiency.

Read more: How to Design Sustainable Products for Recycling by the End User

3 | Transportation 

Regardless of the mode of transportation used, determining the optimal route to the next (or final) destination is time well spent. While it may seem sensible to always take the shortest route to save gas and cut down on travel time, it could actually end up having a reverse effect thanks to traffic jams and additional fuel burned during idling. Work through different scenarios and dispatch options to determine which plan is best. Failure to plan efficient routes will lead to greater negative effects on the environment and hurt your bottom line.

If you don't handle your own logistics, make sure you're working with a provider that monitors its efficiency, and ask to see data to support their claims. A logistics company making strides to go green should train truckers in efficient driving habits as well as utilize engine monitoring technology to keep a close eye on driver behavior. They should also be investing in green fleets with good fuel economy and lower emissions to decrease their carbon footprint.

4 | Warehousing

Making small changes in your warehouse – from more efficient lighting, to the use of motion sensors, to solar power – can lead to major energy conservation over time. But all of this technology is for naught if behavioral changes aren't quick to follow. What is a good starting point when going green at your warehouse? Simply go back to the basics: REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.

What can be reduced? Packaging materials? The number of resources needed to accomplish a task? Optimize your processes to reduce waste. What can be reused? Assess warehouse materials to determine whether they can be reused or must be scrapped. Repurposing will cut waste drastically in some cases. If you don't do so already, consider reusing pallets and other packing materials. Lastly, remind employees to stop to ask themselves whether something belongs in the recycle bin or in the dumpster before tossing it. 

Seriously though.....if these otters can recycle, so can your warehouse.

5 | Back at the Office 

Going green isn't just about reduced truck emissions and reusing pallets in your warehouse. On the administrative front, you can consider going paperless, utilizing electronic data and automating processes to save energy and time, as well as reducing waste in multiple ways.

Read more: 14 Tips for Creating a Paperless Office

If you're truly dedicated to going green, it will involve the initatives of every team member in every department. Establishing goals and keeping them top-of-mind with your employees is critical to making significant strides. Changing behavior is the magic trick to achieving a truly green supply chain that will help your company and the environment alike.



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Filed Under: Supply Chain Management