Steps to a Sustainable Supply Chain Series: Part 2 

Your brand cares. Your business has developed a meaningful vision of how it fits into a more sustainable future. To achieve these goals, it is important that the suppliers you work with share that vision. In 2019, CDP reported that a company’s supply chain made up 5.5 times more of its emissions than direct operations, so for your sustainability initiatives to have real impact, bringing your supply chain on board should be one of your highest priorities. This series of articles is intended to act as a guide through the process of engaging your suppliers with your sustainability goals and strategy, from communicating the value of software solutions, to the practical considerations of implementation and optimizing new processes. 

Read Part 1 of the series, “Cultural Onboarding: Communicating Sustainability to Your Supply Chain,” here
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Once your brand has developed effective communication with its suppliers around its sustainability goals, it is time to start taking practical steps to bring them on board with your sustainability strategy. From data collection to training and support, there are a number of practical methods for ensuring your supply chain’s engagement with sustainability initiatives at every stage of implementation. 

Collecting and Standardizing Data 

The first step towards fostering effective collaboration within your supply chain is to standardize data collection. You will need to gather essential compliance and sustainability data from all suppliers and communicate this information to all involved parties consistently and clearly. 

Designating points of contact is crucial. Work with each supplier and each manufacturing site to make sure they have a reliable point person who you can reach out to. Ideally this should be someone who has responsibility for sustainability initiatives and access to whatever related information the supplier is gathering. Without a designated point of contact, your sustainability queries may get passed around from team to team within a supplier company without ever reaching the people who have the information you need. This is a two-way street - each supplier should also know who their point of contact is for sustainability within your organization. 

With these contacts in place, collate data from every one of your suppliers into one place. A single supplier database which records the point of contact’s details, facility names, location, inventory, compliance information, and other data for every supplier will be an invaluable resource for ensuring clear and timely communication. Keeping this information up to date is crucial, so set up a procedure for regularly updating your suppliers’ details. Intelligent sharing of this information allows you to move forward in a variety of ways. For example, establishing regional groups of suppliers who work together on particular region-specific initiatives, or connecting supplier sustainability representatives who have similar concerns to multiply their expertise. 

Establishing Processes 

Whatever form your sustainability initiatives take, make it easier for your suppliers to engage by establishing a standardized onboarding process. Implementing a new initiative requires training. Start out by providing training to your key points of contact, helping them to understand both the specifics of the current initiative and how they should approach bringing other stakeholders on board within the supplier that they represent. Effective training empowers key supplier personnel, making them more self-sufficient and reducing future enquiries. Check in as often as possible with your points of contacts to see how the rollout of the new initiative is progressing, offer support where possible and identify areas where further training may be necessary. Document this process internally at every stage and provide a framework for suppliers to keep records that are compatible with yours. 

Creating checklists can be a simple but effective way to provide consistent structure throughout and between individual sustainability initiatives. Standardized checklists act as a quick reference for suppliers, enabling them to refamiliarize themselves with your brand’s requirements, standards and aims at every stage of implementation. Information management software can serve a similar function by clearly laying out the parameters that your brand is focusing on and providing suppliers with transparency on how effectively they are meeting those parameters. 

Getting Ahead 

The earlier suppliers are brought on board with new sustainability initiatives, the easier it will be for them to fully engage. Providing advance notice of new programs, with as much information as possible, gives suppliers more time to start the process of adapting their operations. Informing suppliers up front of the data collection requirements of an upcoming project can be particularly effective at smoothing the implementation process for both parties, as data collection is often one of the most arduous steps of that process. 

Of course, getting ahead of upcoming challenges in this way is never simple. Suppliers will need as much support as you can offer if they are to engage fully with your sustainability initiatives and maximize the potential benefits for both sides. Communicate to your supply chain that they are not alone. Your team are there to provide assistance and support if needed and depending on the structure of your supply chain network there may be further assistance available from other suppliers or external partners.

 

CleanChain, an ADEC Innovation, helps you gain visibility and insights into the chemical use in your supply chain. Want to find out more? Book a free demo with us today to find out how CleanChain can help you engage your supply chain and improve your chemical management initiatives.

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