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Best Practices for Sustainable Supply Chains – and Why They Matter

By September 27, 2023No Comments
Supply Chain

The unforeseen and monumental breakdown in the supply chain, logistics and delivery of goods during COVID-19 brought this industry into the spotlight. And with a surge in environmental awareness in recent years, all eyes are on companies in this sector who engage in practices that demonstrate a commitment to reduce environmental impact and contribute to positive change.

Governments, investors, employees, and customers are applying pressure and those organizations that not only improve the flow of goods but do so in an environmentally responsible manner have the opportunity to set the stage for real progress and can lead the charge in corporate social responsibility.

If you’re engaged in supply chain and logistics (SL&C) training/supply chain management programs or are taking supply chain management courses, you need to know the basics of what sustainability means to this sector, why it’s essential and how you, as a SC&L professional, can support and empower companies to implement best practices.

What Does Sustainable Logistics Mean?

Also know as ‘green logistics’, these are the practices and processes geared to improving the manufacturing, distribution, and management of a product, throughout its lifespan, so as to lower the environmental footprint and demonstrate economic and social responsibility consistently and overtime.

Responsible companies don’t just consider cost, speed and reliability of operations but uphold the values and practices that consider climate change, deforestation, water needs, human rights, and fair labour practices.

Why are Sustainable Supply Chains Essential?

It is undeniable that supply chains use a vast number of resources and have a track record for creating unnecessary waste. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, “Most of the environment impact associated with the consumer sector is embedded in supply chains … 90% of natural capital impact (affecting air, soil, land) and 80% of green house gas emissions.”

To change the story, companies need to step up, consider the environmental consequences of their product’s creation and delivery and diligently do their part to protect the planet, its resources, and its people.

How Can a Supply Chain be Sustainable?

Taking impactful leaps toward lowering carbon emissions, lowering waste, and improving conditions in the labour force are a start. Implementing programs aimed at recycling materials, finding renewable energy sources, and aligning with other organizations committed to sustainable practices, also helps. Tracking sustainability metrics is next, demonstrating commitment and setting an example for others as conditions improve.

What are the Best Practices That Are Currently Having an Impact?  

A Forbes article citing Forrester, a foremost research and advisory firm, laid out a framework for supply chain sustainability integration.

  1. Procurement – Procure sustainable materials to use in products; consider energy and water procurement.
  2. Operations – Determine ways to increase efficiency in processes or steps throughout the supply chain process and reduce resource usage.
  3. Retirement – Decrease waste by redesigning products for reuse.
  4. Data and Communication – Measure effectiveness of initiatives and communicate to customers, partners and shareholders.

Supply Chain Quarterly lists these practices as having an impact – to name a few.

  • Conduct rigorous and regular sustainability audits for both new andexisting suppliers.
  • Use a digital platform to encourage sustainability among supply chain partners.
  • Provide financial incentives to suppliers for sustainability efforts.
  • Adopt end-to-end transportation management systems (TMS) that include sustainability considerations.
  • Design/redesign warehouses and distribution centers to minimize the building’s carbon footprint.

“Innovation has always been a way of gaining market share, increasing revenues, reducing costs, and gaining competitive advantage. With the increasing importance of sustainability to both consumer and business customers, organizations that develop and implement creative and innovative strategies and tactics can gain a competitive advantage within their industry.”


In embarking on your supply chain management certification, you must be keenly aware of the issues facing the industry and recognize your part as a professional in supporting the advancement in responsibility and sustainability. If you’re looking for a career that fundamentally makes a difference in how we live and want to be part on an evolution in environmental awareness, this may be the career choice for you.

If you’re still considering if your interests align with this work, take the “Business Career Discovery Quiz”.

But if you’re ready to begin your Supply Chain and Logistics career, we’re here to help you navigate the steps along the way. Book a virtual appointment with our Admissions team and let’s get you launched into your first, or next, rewarding career.

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