As much as 80 percent of a business’s carbon emissions come from their supply chain, not their operations. So, as the US emerges from the pandemic, more people are realizing supply chains are an untapped opportunity to create a sustainable recovery for businesses and society as a whole.
Here are three ideas to help any business build a more sustainable supply chain.
1. WORK WITH LIKE-MINDED COMPANIES
“You start by mapping your supply chain, understanding, not just who your suppliers are but where the facilities are located, the energy grid that they’re operating off of, what chemicals are being used on-site, etc.,” says Emily Foster, a Sustainability Analyst with snowboarding gear manufacturer, Burton. “With this mapping exercise, you’re building a more holistic picture of your impacts and developing deeper relationships with your suppliers. You’re building that trust, which I think is critical to supply chain sustainability initiatives.
“Collaboration is absolutely key,” she adds. “As you’re mapping and measuring, know that no one company can create the system-level change we need to address the climate crisis. We need collective actions among peers and competitors. For smaller brands, or even companies that are just starting their sustainability journey, there’s a lot of opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. You don’t have to go it alone. Tapping into industry associations is a great place to start. In the outdoor industry, the Climate Action Corps has been an incredible resource space and a platform for collaboration for us. My advice is to find like-minded companies or groups that are engaged on those big goals that are hard to tackle alone.”
2. DON’T LET YOUR BANK UNDO YOUR GOOD WORK
Where you put your money matters, says Brady Robinson, Executive Director of The Conservation Alliance, which moved its banking relationship in 2020 to Bank of the West because of its policy against financing Arctic Drilling. Bank of the West is the only major US bank to be a member of the Conservation Alliance.
“Financial relationships are absolutely critical. Consumers are starting to pay more and more attention to this,” Robinson says. “Will the day come when consumers are even looking up where you’re banking?
“I think the awareness around finances as a part of your financial supply chain is only going to grow over time. Do your research. And if you feel that there is a bank that is more aligned with your values, then make the move. Make a six-month plan, and do it.
“There’s this sense that to be sustainable means that you have to take a hit to the bottom line. But I’m here to say that when it comes to your finances, that is just not the case. It’s possible to get a good rate of return and to feel good about where your assets are invested. It is possible to work with an international, well-underwritten bank that is trending in a positive direction when it comes to sustainability and divesting from dirty industries. So, make your goals clear, get internal alignment, and begin!”
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR SUPPLIERS’ CAPABILITIES
Build trust with your suppliers and partners to create a more sustainable supply chain, says Mike McQueeney, President of headwear and apparel manufacturer Headsweats.
“We’re in the sports retail business, and we can make performance fabrics manufactured from recycled water bottles. That gives us a competitive edge,” he says. “You need to understand the capabilities of your suppliers, in terms of what they can provide you and what they plan on doing. It’s not an overnight conversation; it’s a continuous one. And in business, we all realize change is not easy. When you have a partner, and you’ve established that relationship, you want to nurture and grow it because the more it flourishes, the more you can flourish.”
Hear the full conversation among Foster, McQueeney, and Robinson, moderated by Bank of The West Head of Corporate & Social Responsibility Melissa Fifield. Watch the replay of our webinar, Are Parts of Your Supply Chain Undoing Your Environmental Work?