Embedding sustainability into everyday supply chain management is a universal challenge that businesses are grappling with globally. To address this, organisations must first establish clear headline strategies, articulating their commitment to sustainability and setting overarching goals. These strategies act as guiding principles for decision-making at all levels of the supply chain.

Once headline strategies are in place, they need to be transposed into functional targets, breaking down overarching goals into actionable objectives for each segment of the supply chain. Measuring, tracking, and reporting progress are essential for transparently communicating the organisation’s commitment and fostering accountability.

Incorporating sustainability considerations into new initiative assessments ensures that environmental and social impacts are considered from the project’s inception. Balancing sustainability with traditional supply chain metrics like cost, service, and speed is crucial, recognising that every business is unique and requires a tailored approach.

A structured approach: Assess Design Embed®

In our approach to embedding sustainability into supply chain management, we follow a structured three-phase process: Assess, Design, and Embed.

Assess

A thorough assessment is needed to ensure efforts are directed where they will have maximum impact, and to ensure your actions deliver results.

  • Understand the material issues and where your supply chain’s greatest impacts are
  • Study active and incoming legislation, to understand potential exposure and anticipate changes
  • Evaluate current ways of working, including processes, organisational structures, skills, tools, and key performance indicators (KPIs), and how well they support the organisation’s sustainability vision

This phase must also gauge the extent of change required in the organisation to achieve these goals.

Design

Determining the plan and what future ways of working look like will ensure you set the organisation up for success to achieve its enhanced goals, while bringing people on board through developing their vision of the future.

  • Use the assessment findings to set tangible and time-bound targets
  • Identify the levers that impact and contribute to these, considering both internal and external factors
  • Quantify and prioritise initiatives to provide clarity on focus areas
  • Identify skills needed to support the new sustainability initiatives
  • Review existing processes to ensure they align with the new goals

Embed

The Embed phase ensures sustainability becomes an integral part of the organisational culture. This involves a holistic approach where sustainability is not an add-on but ingrained in the way of doing business.

  • Implement training initiatives to upskill the organisation
  • Raise awareness among employees to foster a shared commitment to sustainability goals
  • Cultivate committed and consistent behaviours across the organisation – you won’t get every decision right in this emergent space, but aligning people around a common ‘North Star’ is essential

Taking a systematic and comprehensive strategy ensures a robust and enduring integration of sustainability into everyday business practices.

In essence, successful integration of sustainability into supply chain management involves developing clear strategies, setting functional targets, measuring progress transparently, and considering sustainability in every facet of decision-making. This holistic approach allows businesses to navigate the complexities of sustainable supply chain management effectively.

Author: Judith Richardson

Judith Richardson

Managing Principal

sustainability.uk@argonandco.com

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