How Green Is Your Supply Chain?

Customers are demanding that manufacturers operate in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Will environmental issues force supply chain managers to think the unthinkable? That topic was debated at a recent conference hosted by consulting firm SCALA Logistics Consulting. For instance, John Perry, SCALA's managing director, suggests companies need to ask themselves these key questions:

  • Would you put the environment before cost benefits?
  • Would you collaborate with competitors?
  • Would you reduce customer demand for the benefit of the environment?

Chris Robinson, international supply chain manager with UK-based food manufacturer Tetley Tea, says, "We should not be ashamed of saying that we are looking to make a profit. But we must act in a responsible way."

One of those ways, he suggests, is to collaborate more closely with supply chain partners. "In the UK today the demand is to supply goods on an as-required basis to the various infrastructures established by retailers in the constant search for economy and efficiency. Is this environmentally driven? The opportunities for logistics collaboration are immense and these need to be fostered, not imposed."

Rebecca Jenkins, a director of logistics services provider Wincanton, observes, "There is a sound business case for tackling environmental issues, but there is a lot of hype in what is said. Consumers will force the issue and that is why companies are looking at long-term protection of their brands. Companies like Nike want to show tomorrow's consumers that they are acting today to protect the environment."

Jenkins also points to retail giant Wal-Mart as an example of a company taking a positive action in the supply chain thanks to its adoption of a balanced environment scorecard for its suppliers.

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