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ASCM Insights

Deliver on Supply Chain Sustainability Expectations

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As environmental pressures continue escalating amid the very clear effects of climate change, more and more companies are making sustainability a key priority. Beyond being simply the right thing to do, sustainable supply chains are an expectation of customers, shareholders and employees alike. For many organizations, these stakeholders don’t just value environmental consciousness; they demand it.

In a recent Adobe sustainability study, one-third of people said they would only work for an employer that prioritizes sustainability. This is especially important to millennials, 42% of whom look for green attitudes from employers. Overall, 35% of people think instituting sustainability practices boosts productivity rates, 31% say it positions their company as a leader, and 37% believe it opens more opportunities for innovation. In addition, 43% of employees believe sustainable practices improve workplace culture — a competitive edge that can be a game-changer in the aftermath of the Great Resignation and during low levels of unemployment.

Employers of all kinds can encourage workplace sustainability by tapping into the key standards for ethics, sustainability and economic responsibility included in ASCM Enterprise Certification for Sustainability. Plus, these standards can be taken even further by focusing on strategies specific to a company’s particular operations. For instance, Nike is upcycling waste into its apparel with the new Nike Forward material. It’s made from recycled plastic flakes that are formed into thin layers using a needle-punching machine. Currently, the upcycled waste is mostly from recycled plastic bottles, but Nike hopes to expand the types of materials used, eventually even using manufacturing waste. The company says this offers a 75% reduction in the carbon footprint derived from its manufacturing processes, compared with the production of traditional sweatshirt.

In the beverage space, Heineken’s Inch’s Cider, which recently launched in the United Kingdom, is designed with recyclable packaging and made with apples grown less than 40 miles from the mill in Herefordshire, England. The leftover apple pulp from the manufacturing process is also converted to green energy. And Heineken is working to source 100% of its hops and barely from renewable sources by 2030. Company leaders note that a sustainability focus is an important differentiator when working with retailers, who are increasingly pushing for sustainable products in line with consumer expectations.  

Microsoft, the 2021 winner of ASCM’s Corporate Award of Excellence — Making an Impact, has been building out its own sustainability model. The tech company gathers the thousands of assets that are decommissioned and disposed of each year from its datacenters and sends them to a Circular Center for reuse, repurposing or recycling. Upon arrival, each asset is broken down into components that can be sorted and sent on to the next useful stage of their lives. This is determined by the company’s Intelligent disposition and routing system, which defines the most sustainable path for every part across the entire Microsoft supply chain. For example, servers might find a second life at schools or training programs, and memory cards can be used in electronic toys or gaming systems. Microsoft says this model has captured the interest of its suppliers and created new categories of jobs that support sustainability.

Strategies that work

Sustainability is a key topic at this year’s ASCM CONNECT Annual Conference. Under the Sustainability learning pillar, you’ll find presentations about designing greener products, improving the sustainability of freight activities, achieving long-term sustainability value and lots more. Also don’t miss our awards ceremony to find out who will win this year’s Making an Impact award, among the many other exciting categories.

If you haven’t yet booked your trip to Chicago, join us virtually. Virtual attendees have access to live video feeds of the keynotes, 12 live-streamed and 24 prerecorded educational sessions, the ASCM Awards of Excellence ceremony, and exclusive in-platform networking. I invite you to explore the agenda, then register today!

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted at abe@ascm.org.

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