Five takeaways for small business and the sustainable supply chain

October 2, 2017 Peter Rau


Supply chain leaders around the world continue to make major strides in sustainability programs. In May alone, PepsiCo and Walmart pledged to set higher standards for low-carbon or electric industrial vehicles while L’Oréal and McDonald’s committed to eliminating deforestation from their commodity supply chains. From procurement to packaging, corporate giants are taking the time to introduce new sustainability initiatives across all levels of the supply chain.  

As international organizations gain traction in the sustainability arena, small businesses should take notice. Though they might not be able to address sustainability concerns on a global scale like PepsiCo or McDonald’s, small businesses can still make an impact by investing in a green supply chain.

The idea that small organizations can stay relevant while investing in sustainability begs the question: How? I was recently interviewed by Electronics Sourcing Magazine to offer insight on that very question. Here are the most important takeaways from Victoria Kickham’s article, “Start small to achieve big on sustainability.”

Lead by example

To run a successful sustainability program, you must ensure the C-suite is on board with creating a plan and budget. Small businesses certainly have an advantage in this arena: While large manufacturers face several roadblocks on the path to approval, start-ups often have less red tape to work through. The business impact will help make the case: The EcoVadis Sustainable Procurement Barometer, our recent study of supply chain professionals, found that 50 percent of sustainable procurement leaders experienced increased revenue from sustainability initiatives, which is a powerful message for decision makers at your organization to hear.

Identify your directive: Who will lead your sustainability efforts?

Once the pertinent people agree to move forward, it’s critical to identify who will lead the company’s sustainability efforts. From there, identify the most important issues for the organization’s stakeholders. Do they care about waste management? Carbon emissions? Water usage? Companies that gain input from multiple sources are far more likely to succeed in building an effective sustainability program.  

Build a “green” program from the inside out

Sustainability isn’t just an internal task, but an external one, as well. Once your company has a solid foundation, with a plan in place and someone to lead the charge, connect with your partners and suppliers to ensure they understand how you expect them to participate. Suppliers should understand why sustainability is important to your company, their role, and how your operations and efforts are interconnected. CSR scorecards are a useful way for companies to monitor environmental, ethical, and social practices of suppliers and business partners, which can help make those conversations more substantive, and improve performance over time.

Track your progress

To see the return in your sustainability efforts, you must invest. Leadership should determine what sustainability issues are relevant to your industry and take action to reduce your footprint.

After making decisions around what’s most important to the organization, leaders should identify meaningful, measurable goals to track progress across the life of the sustainability program.

A successful sustainability program is an investment: It may take time and money to get started, but small businesses will see a great return in the long run – both financially and reputationally.  

Analysis of more than 20,000 companies reveals improvement and opportunity across environmental, labor, ethical and sustainable procurement risk. Read more in EcoVadis’ Global CSR Risk and Performance Index 2017.

Small-scale sustainability, big reward

Companies of all sizes across all industries are enabling supply chain sustainability en masse. The green supply chain has become a mainstay, and while some companies might only invest in sustainability because of government-mandated guidelines, the most successful programs are intentional, with the backing of leadership and clear goals.

Ready to convince your small business to engage in sustainability? Here’s how you can Rally Your Team: 5 Steps Guide to Building Your Business Case for Sustainable Procurement.



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