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ASCM Insights

Elevate your Supply Chain’s Visibility by Highlighting Sustainability Initiatives

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Signal your company’s commitment to socially responsible practices by communicating supply chain sustainability progress  

If your supply chain is making noticeable headway in its sustainability efforts, you’re not alone. CEOs consistently rate sustainability among their top business priorities, and we’ve seen innovative, successful initiatives first from the big industrial corporations like BP, Dow Chemical, DuPont, and GE, and now sweeping programs from leading consumer-facing organizations like Apple, Coca-Cola, Google, and MillerCoors.

Sustainability has gone from an optional but noble issue to a business imperative that is sought out and required by employees, customers, partners, shareholders and regulators. Stakeholders are expecting organizations to do more than just carry out the basic, obvious improvements. They want to see increasingly far-reaching and impactful sustainability efforts, even if it means those efforts might cut into profits. Sustainability is now a key component of corporate social responsibility initiatives and is highlighted in the reports that companies issue on their corporate citizenship.

Now, sustainability has grown to become a core element of many organization’s brands, and it is cited as a point of competitive differentiation. Meanwhile, we’re seeing lasting positive change come from supply chain programs focused on remanufacturing, emission and waste control, water purification, greenhouse gas reduction, recycling, child labor elimination, carbon footprint reduction, and more.

Taking all this into consideration, it’s not surprising that the methodology that the analyst firm Gartner uses to determine the prestigious Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 includes a corporate social responsibility (CSR) component. Companies are assessed based on publicly available sustainability reports to determine commitment to socially and environmentally responsible supply chain practices.

Share Your Sustainability Story

It’s likely that your supply chain organization has several sustainability projects underway and is making wonderful progress—progress that demonstrates your company cares about people, the environment, the future. However, all the great work your team is doing isn’t getting the attention that it deserves. In fact, you may wonder if the executive suite or the people who publish your company’s social responsibility report are aware of your team’s progress. It’s likely that they have no idea…you’ll need to tell them.

Just as supply chains are complex, so is corporate bureaucracy. Here are a few ideas to help you cut through the clutter.

If you work at a big company that publishes a sustainability/CSR website or report, read it. Think about how your team’s work fits in with the topics covered. It’s likely that you have some great statistics or case studies to share. You, together with your manager, may want to put together a strategy for sharing your work in progress. A simple scorecard or short PowerPoint presentation could capture your initiatives and results. Once this information is packaged it can become fodder for an email to the head of your department, an update at a staff meeting, or an email to the sustainability leader identified in your company’s materials. Share your results with the marketing and corporate communications teams, too. A great stat could become an even greater post to your corporate Facebook page.

If you work for a more modest sized company, or one that has yet to embrace sustainability/CSR reporting, you may want to create your own simple sustainability report for your team or department. You could then share your report across your supply chain and encourage others to create similar documents. You could also create a case study or presentation about your team’s sustainability progress. While these are extra efforts, they demonstrate your initiative and positively position your team within your company.

Supply Chain Leaders and Sustainability

If you are a supply chain leader, don’t assume that the CEO or CSR team knows the extent of your sustainability efforts, or that sustainability is being built in to CSR initiatives. It’s up to you to see to it that they are and to communicate your sustainability plans and progress to employees, suppliers and partners so that you all succeed together.

Sustainability is increasingly seen as an essential step toward achieving long-term profitability, and as such, it deserves to be treated as a strategic initiative that is embraced by everyone – from the newest trainee to the chair of the board. Take direct steps to ensure your sustainability efforts receive the attention they deserve so that a fuller picture of operations is presented to stakeholders.

Think Beyond your Four Walls

If you have an outstanding sustainability story, consider sharing it with others. Nearly every supply chain conference features content on sustainability, including ours. When the call for presentations goes out, submit your story. There are also many awards that recognize outstanding supply chain projects and leaders that break new ground in supply chain sustainability. 

Don’t keep your sustainability success to yourself. When sustainability succeeds, everyone wins.

About the Author

Jennifer Daniels Former Vice President of Marketing, APICS

Jennifer Daniels is a former vice president of marketing at APICS.

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