Building Sustainable & Resilient Supply Chains

Recently I attended a panel discussion on supply chain sustainability sponsored by the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals Southern California Roundtable. The diverse panel consisted of leaders from Sony Electronics, Vans,FoodLogiQ and Clean Energy Fuels and offered a rich discussion surrounding efforts to implement sustainable practices in large international supply chains and how these measures can help add resilience along the way.

Some of the key points that came of out the discussion are not industry specific and resonate across the board:

  1. You can’t change what you don’t know. The burden of carrying out an audit lies on the suppliers; FoodLogiQ offered the example of McDonalds and how the food giant required their potato suppliers to offer information regarding the growth of the vegetable, with the ultimate goal of lessening the amount of pesticides used to grow them. The farmers had to invest time and money to monitor this, but in the end this information proved valuable for the company and its suppliers. McDonalds potato suppliers now use less pesticides, costing them less in the end and protecting the land for future production.
  2. There is a new code of conduct that electronics, apparel and food manufactures expect their suppliers to follow. The sustainability program for Vans is far reaching and part of a more elaborate effort of the larger organization Vans belongs to, the $12 billion apparel and footwear international giant VF Corporation. Vans communicates with their suppliers regarding their sustainability efforts and monitors the impact of their operations as well as their products. They worked only with certified suppliers and conduct audits at manufacturing plants to ensure that the suggested guidelines are followed. Vans uses the Higg Index to measure product impact and the VF Corporation is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a non-profit organization that strives to create a shared vision of sustainability built upon a common approach for measuring and evaluating apparel and footwear product sustainability performance.

Sony Electronics has undertaken a huge effort to phase out the usage of certain chemicals and sustainable sourcing through conflict minerals policy and management. They have implemented stringent audits with their suppliers and require them to complete a certification process prior to developing a partnership.

  1. Packaging is key. Most of the time we think a lot of the impact lies in transportation but both Sony Electronics and Vans strongly agree that packaging offers great opportunities for lessening the impact of products. In both cases their research into the company’s operations show that materials and manufacturing are the biggest impact vs retail and distribution. Lifecycle assessments offer sustainability managers an understanding of how the product fares from manufacturing to disposal. Both Sony and Vans agree companies agree that sustainability measures should spread across the organization but they point out that some of the time these measures cannot be properly valued, and therefore it is hard to get teams behind these efforts. They suggest that the best way to implement sustainability measures in a large organization is to understand your footprint, find your hotspots and go after it!
  2. You can’t do it alone! FoodLogiQ is a partner to some of the largest food chains and food retailers in the United States. Their work with McDonalds, Chipotle and now Whole Foods Market has helped these companies become more conscious about their operations and purchasing, but has also aided in educating consumers. Have you seen the Good/ Better/ Best labels on fresh produce at Whole Foods Markets? That is an effort to help consumers make more informed decisions while helping farmers undertake better measures to protect their land, lessen their water usage and practice wise pesticide control.

Finally Clean Energy Fuels is one of America’s largest natural gas suppliers for trucks clean fleet trucks. Their efforts span from servicing local garbage trucks, through partnerships with various cities around the country to supplying large cargo trucks for companies such as C.H. Robinson and Southern Counties Express. Without their efforts these companies would still be heavily dependent on oil which creates numerous pollution problems around the country but specifically here in Southern California.


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