If you’re a hardware company in 2020, the sustainability of your products should be a driving factor when considering product design and supply chain. According to a study published in 2019, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that modern consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. If you’re able to become a company that incorporates sustainable practices, consumers will reward you with increased sales and brand loyalty.
Manufacturing is never perfect. No matter what you do, it’s going to leave a mark on your profits, people, and the planet. Whether you’re a startup or a large business, your supply chain plays a small but significant part of the global economy that can have a ripple effect down to the various local communities that contribute to the making of your product.
Aside from the monetary benefits, building a sustainable supply chain can provide long term value environmentally, socially, and economically, which aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
We’ve already covered some basics of sustainable manufacturing, so let’s take a look at how we can make progress towards sustainability in our supply chains.
To make big changes within any organization, you will require buy-in from key stakeholders within your company. Incorporating sustainability into your supply chain will be no different. First, direct your focus on developing a business case for sustainability. Ensure engagement of investors, your finance department, supply chain managers, product designers, customers, and end consumers. When you fully understand the internal and external landscape of your industry and company, you can accurately evaluate the risks and opportunities you are facing.
Here is a small sample of drivers to consider while building your business case for sustainability:
Every company is different, so consider your unique situation and how sustainability can benefit your entire organization and those that your organization impacts.
Good supply chain managers consider their suppliers an extension of their company and treat them as such, nurturing these partnerships for the long haul. Therefore, developing a shared mindset of sustainability with your suppliers is important.
A good initial step in the right direction: create a supplier code of conduct that helps to establish expectations, guidelines, and metrics to evaluate performance over time. Some examples of expectations you might set are:
There are many more factors to consider. Apple’s supplier responsibility report has some great examples of incorporating sustainability principles into their supply chain.
Since this is becoming more of a global issue, many companies are not afraid to share their sustainable supply chain practices. It would be worthwhile to ask around within your industry and work with your peers to establish a shared standard so that suppliers don’t need to adhere to the standard of each individual company. Do what you can to take the stress off of your suppliers since this might be a significant change for them. They will greatly appreciate it!
Today's generation of consumers are increasingly demanding sustainably sourced products, so it’s well worth the consideration to make changes in your supply chain. Make no mistake that it will be a huge task, and it won’t happen overnight. Taking steps towards sustainability can have significant positive impacts environmentally, socially, and economically around the world. Hopefully, with the information we’ve provided, you’re now equipped with the basic knowledge of establishing a sustainable supply chain!