4 Ways To Green Your Supply Chain

Going green is a long-term decision requiring the collaboration of all supply chain components.

Sustainability initiatives benefit organisations by increasing productivity, efficiency and corporate reputation, while minimising costs and wastage. Once applied to a supply chain, they allow for enhanced capability, agility, regulation compliance and risk protection.

Updating supply chain management technologies for seamless processing is an ideal start towards minimising emissions, but for a truly environmentally aware approach, each chain component should be investigated individually.

1. Green your product

To make big changes you must start small. An intricate understanding of product and supply chain details makes evaluating where and how to rejuvenate simpler. By starting with a basic product review, aspects further down the chain will become simpler to address (such as sourcing raw materials from environmentally-minded suppliers).

  • Review your product and raw materials. Can these be more biodegradable, renewable, recyclable, durable, reusable or non-toxic?

  • Source products and materials sustainably.Can you source raw materials locally to reduce transportation and emissions? Initiatives such as near-sourcing (literally sourcing from nearby) will improve this. Near-sourcing for large organisations may entail sourcing and distributing from nearby countries as opposed to far-flung continents, but may mean local, or regional sourcing for smaller businesses.

  • Consider if your product be easily recycled or renewed at the end of it’s lifespan.


Cost must be considered when evaluating product, but as environmental initiatives provide long-term risk protection against future legislation changes or unsustainable sourcing, cost should be viewed as investment.

2. Green your suppliers

Reviewing raw product will lead automatically to an audit of suppliers and supply chain component partners:

  • Question the environmental policies of your current suppliers and partner organisations. Can they conform with aspirations to source locally? Are they planning to minimise energy consumption, reduce emissions and carbon footprints, or increase sustainability?

  • Evaluate the energies you use to create, package and ship your product. Can your partners reduce this in any way?

  • Consider switching to alternative suppliers if they do not conform to your needs. You may already have done this in order to green raw product or invest in more sustainable actions.

  • Investigate the intricacies of your supply chain to locate and counteract your greatest emissions and wastage etc. (such as in production or logistics).

  • Internally review your own green initiatives. As you’re starting from the ground up, you should set an example of environmental aspirations to your partners. Do you yourself renew, reuse, recycle, or aim to minimise energy consumption?

3. Green your warehousing

Warehousing and distribution are most likely to negatively impact your carbon emissions. ‘Greening’ your warehousing will not only reduce environmental impact but will revolutionise productivity, efficiency and agility. If it’s possible to localise distribution (among other things), then cost and transportation (emissions) will be minimal, and capability will be enhanced.

  • Regionalise warehousing (if possible) for minimal transportation and distribution.

  • Aim to streamline processes to fit maximum product into minimal space. This saves space, energy and cost, while reducing transportation and emissions.

  • Economise packaging (and therefore storage). Simply using the right size box can save on space, wastage and money.

  • Improve the energy efficiency of warehouses themselves; introduce low lighting; active on timers and sensors etc.

  • Update stock management technologies for optimum inventory level accuracy. Reflecting capacity in real time will allow you to maximise efficiency.

4. Green your transportation

From internal transportation to final product delivery, logistics form the backbone of any supply chain. Make this green, and your entire supply chain will benefit:

  • Use fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.

  • Fit vehicles with fuel-efficient tyres and train drivers to drive ecologically.

  • Consolidate shipments to ship maximum product with minimal transport and emissions.

  • Use ground transport when possible. This has lower emissions than air freight, so if a delivery does not have to be made quickly, consider sending it by road rather than air.

With greater appeal to ecologically minded consumers, greening a supply chain will benefit entire organisations; improving efficiency, agility and economy, while protecting against environmental risk through legislation compliance and increased sustainability.

Alastair is a writer and blogger on various business related topics. He supplied this article for 2touch a company based in the UK supplying fulfilment services including ecommerce fulfilment

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfsregion5/7699041718/

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