Green Supply Chain: Where to start?

When faced with the task of greening your supply chain, where do you start? You may even start by asking what is a supply chain? Very briefly described, supply chain is all the steps involved in getting a product to the end customer. For a tangible product, this means obtaining raw materials, turning them into your product and then delivering them to your customer. In many cases a single company does not produce all of the components and resources needed to complete this task. Building all of the components of a computer would mean manufacturing the computer chips, producing plastics, electrical components, all the way to LED lights, etc. The basic business model does not include the production of every item on a bill of materials. To solve this problem companies tend to address their make or buy decisions by weighing out the benefits of manufacturing vs. sourcing. If outsourcing costs less or the company does not have the expertise to produce the product in question, they will opt to purchase it from another company rather than invest in the resources necessary for production. When this decision is made the company gives up the control and oversight of the manufacturing process. This is where the challenge of greening a reseller’s supply chain becomes difficult.

Resellers provide value to the manufacturers by selling their products through a variety of channels. They may sell to customers via store front, e-commerce store front, business to business, etc. Softchoice does not have a store front so we rely on distributors to ship products sold on the e-commerce store front or through business to business sales. Because Softchoice does not manufacturer anything we are the second last link of the supply chain. In order to analyze the supply chain from this link backward is difficult because the information necessary is not at our finger tips. Greening the supply chain from this link, to the next, leaves us with delivery method, vendor selection and internal supply chain. Internal supply chain means choosing the most sustainable vendors for our tangible and intangible procurement. It also means all the steps and processes involved in obtaining an order to shipping to a customer. Vendor selection gives the buyer power but how do we know which vendor is the greenest? Delivery method is a simple choice we can make to reduce some carbon emissions in the meantime by not shipping air, and not shipping orders partial.

There are a few places to start in greening your supply chain. First thing you need to do is determine where you are in the supply chain. Being at the end gives you buyer power, but you have no oversight as to how your products transformed into what they are. Vendor selection is buying power but you need to find out who is the greenest. At a manufacturing level there are certifications such as ISO 14000(International Organization for Standardization) to help guide you, from a consumer perspective you have EPEAT(Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool ) but there are many things such as services which do not have these designations. Again shipping orders by ground only, trying to buy in bulk and only shipping complete are great ways in the short term to reduce your footprint. Softchoice is at the end of the supply chain but even the biggest manufacturers outsource production to other countries, companies and service providers. Transparency and information sharing between links is the next step in greening your supply chain so that you know what you’re outsourcing matches or exceeds your internal standard of sustainability.

About Adam Galloway

Making more environmentally conscious purchases is one of the greatest powers we have in curbing wastefulness.