Promoting sustainability in the supply chain is now more important than ever. Customers are actively seeking out companies that opt for ethical suppliers, and shareholders and investors are putting companies under increasing pressure to ensure their end-to-end supply chain is as environmentally and socially conscious as possible.
The benefits of adopting this approach are significant for all the aforementioned parties. Not only does a sustainable supply chain help protect the planet, but it also enables companies to manage resources better, streamline processes, improves productivity and demonstrates your companies commitment to ethical values.
From baselining performance to improving collaboration, read on to discover actionable tips for improving sustainable procurement and supply chain practices in your business.
Get your whole team on board
Your efforts to build a more sustainable external supply chain are far more likely to be successful if your team is on board. They are the eyes and ears of your business and can offer valuable insights into your supply chain’s activities and processes. And they can help identify opportunities for improvement that you might not have noticed. Make sure they understand all the criteria they need to look out for. Modern slavery, for example, is sadly an enduring issue, worldwide but one that many people might not be aware of. The UK government estimates that today there are tens of thousands of people in slavery in Britain alone. So this is clearly an issue that needs to be prioritised in your sustainability and ethical business strategies. For further information and some useful resources visit the Anti-Slavery International website.
Alongside educating and training your team on sustainable supply chain practices, make sure you keep them updated about your ongoing efforts, including news of suppliers that have demonstrated continuous improvement in this area. This will help keep your campaign fresh in their minds and ensure they are invested in your values.
Map your supply chain
You may think that your supply chain is mapped and audited to the highest possible standard but in our experience, many businesses - of all shapes and sizes - could benefit from improvements in this area. Take some time to revisit your end-to-end supply chain and single out the companies that are doing most to ensure their products and services are environmentally friendly and are working actively towards being a force for good. If possible, prioritise these companies within your supply chain and make sure they know you are doing so. It’s important to acknowledge their efforts after all.
If you are unable to find evidence of company’s sustainable practices, ask them to supply more information, and let them know that you’re prioritising companies based on these credentials - now and in the future. You could even consider devising and communicating an ethical code of conduct for your supply chain and publish it in your corporate communications and on your website to show your commitment.
Baseline and evaluate your supplier performance
The next step onwards from mapping your supply chain is to baseline and evaluate your supplier performance. We mentioned requesting information about the company’s practices in the previous point. You could also consider sending out benchmarking questionnaires and self-assessments to ensure you get an accurate gauge on their values and processes. Here are some ideas of criteria to include:
Naturally, you will want to audit your supplier performance over time to make sure they are honouring their responsibilities. Try to show consideration to your suppliers by conducting this in a way that doesn’t impact unnecessarily on their business and resources. Provide a sensible, straightforward framework for them to work with and automate processes where possible. You could even consider offering rewards and incentives for companies that show continuous improvements.
Collaborate with like-minded businesses
Smart procurement and supply chain professionals know that effective collaboration is key to longterm success. Identify companies that are promoting sustainable values - this includes those that you are already working with and those you would like to - and prioritise them as your partners. By adopting this approach you can work towards setting common industry standards and best practices which can help other companies get on board more easily. If all businesses are judged and evaluated on the same set of fair and standardised metrics we can all work towards processes that don’t weigh companies down with excessive audit trails and unnecessary bureaucracy. It can also help us work more collaboratively in general; forging stronger partnerships and creating alliances.
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