Build your own green supply chain
One of the key green business challenges is the supply chain. For most businesses 60%+ of their carbon footprint lies in their suppliers. We have now gone way beyond the days of drawing the limit of responsibility around the factory fence – true green businesses have to address the whole supply chain.
But herein lies the challenge. Current supply chains are set up for conventional products and “green” supply chains tend to be weak – single suppliers, hobbyists masquerading as businesspeople, low capacity, high price. If you want to truly transform your business, simply choosing the marginally greener of the available conventional suppliers is not going to get you very far.
The answer is: build the supply chain you need. Easy to say, difficult to do, but here are some ideas taken from contributors to The Green Executive:
• Collaborate to boost demand: Royal Mail claim to have brought commercial hydrogen vans forward by a decade by collaborating with other European postal services;
• Create volume: Marks & Spencer wanted high grade recycled polyester in their school uniforms, but it was expensive due to low volumes. They found by purchasing low grade recycled fibre in bulk for cushion stuffing, they could bring down the price of the high grade material;
• Work with suppliers: go in and help key suppliers provide a better product and service. if you have to, invest in them and beat them into shape;
• Invest in R&D: collaborate with researchers to develop better green solutions;
• Play conventional suppliers off against each other to get the product or service you need;
• Copy InterfaceFLOR who realised that the most sustainable raw material for making new carpets was using old carpets. Can your products become your raw materials?
None of these are simple and many require you to have substantial purchasing power and or investment resources. But building a green supply chain can be, and has been, done.