Global climate change's detrimental effects on the environment are becoming common knowledge. Consumers are beginning to demand more information about the origin of the products they consume and are looking for ways to minimize their carbon footprint. Factories, in turn, will gain more consumer trust and build brand loyalty by transparently sharing their supply chain practices and material sources.
Consumers are also taking things one step further and showing an increased interest in purchasing products which have been developed in an environmentally friendly manner or have a green supply chain. A green supply chain involves implementing sustainable practices throughout the process of obtaining the supplies needed to produce an item, manufacturing the product and distributing that product to consumers.
Transparency will only travel so far if a facility's best practices don't involve measures to decrease environmental impact. Here are several ways your facility can make the shift towards developing a more environmentally conscious supply chain.
Build a Supply Chain Map
Laying out each step of the supply chain process can help you identify areas which need improvement for overall efficiency and areas where you can reduce your carbon footprint. One of the first steps in this process is to ensure your supplier's vision matches that of your company. Take time to discuss your commitment to sustainability with your suppliers and determine if you can work together to achieve this mission.
Facilities often work to develop products at the lowest possible price to remain competitive in the industry while also maximizing profits. Sustainability and environmentally conscious measures are often incorrectly perceived as being cost-prohibitive. Fortunately, actions that save the environment can also save money. One such method is to source materials from a broader range of suppliers to reduce cost fluctuations.
Convert to More Efficient Equipment
Once you've identified external portions of your supply chain that have room for improvement, look to your operations to see where you can make adjustments. Aging equipment may function inefficiently due to wear and tear. Perform recommended maintenance at the proper intervals to minimize energy waste over time.
It may be more practical to replace aging equipment with upgraded models. A great place to start is by evaluating the state of the air compressors in your facility. Transitioning to a variable speed compressor can result in up to 35% energy savings compared to rotary screw compressors. Additionally, some newer air compressor models qualify for state or local energy rebates.
Share the Company Vision
Once your facility commits to going green, share this information with employees, stakeholders and the general public. Transparency regarding your goals and plan of action to achieve them will help the general public become confident in your brand's commitment to environmental sustainability. Additionally, this practice may also foster product loyalty as likeminded consumers will feel sure that your company's mission matches their own.
Sharing your mission internally is equally as important. A commitment to sustainability is a company-wide effort. Employees and stakeholders will also need to be onboard to ensure your facility is successful in meeting its goal. When employees are aware of your company vision, they will be able to take ownership of their tasks and ensure the supply chain is turning green from the ground up.
Recycle or Donate Waste Material
Make an effort to quantify the volume of waste material your factory goes through each year if you haven't already. If it isn't possible to reduce the raw supplies you're bringing in, consider recycling material on site in other areas of your operations. Repurposing material scraps can eliminate the need for raw materials elsewhere in the supply chain process and may translate to cost savings over time.
If recycling material isn't feasible within your facility, advertise or reach out to external sources who may be interested in the byproducts of your manufacturing process. Local universities or schools may be interested in metal scraps for experiments or science projects. Farmers may be able to use sawdust or wood scraps in their daily operations. You'll support your local community and establish a positive reputation while minimizing the amount of waste your facility contributes to landfills each year.
Remove Excess Packaging
Scaling back packaging can result in significant cost savings over time, while also leading to substantial environmental benefits. Even small measures, such as reducing the volume of twist ties used can still make a difference. Once you start cutting down on packaging, you can share statistics with your consumers demonstrating the quantity of raw material saved by your changes.
If cutting back on packing materials isn't an option for your products, consider converting to recycled packaging options. Converting from non-recyclable material to recyclable or reclaimed packaging will help lower your environmental impact by reducing the amount of raw material your facility uses.
Check in Regularly
Once you've made the commitment to developing a greener supply chain and implemented measures to reduce your carbon footprint, remember to check in to evaluate your progress. Routine audits will provide your facility with updates on whether you're meeting your current goals and performing as you initially hoped. Engage employees to see their perspective and to determine whether the company mission is understood.
Audits and check-ins provide an opportunity to make additional changes as well. If metrics aren't performing as well as you had hoped, you can make adjustments to realize improvements before continuing down an inefficient path for too long. An emphasis on and commitment to continuous improvement will keep your facility on the track towards sustainability.
Investing your time and energy into greenifying your supply chain will help your factory realize long-term benefits including reduced costs and improved energy efficiency.