Supply Chain: the Basics

Sustainability in your supply chain means assessing and managing the environmental impact of your purchased goods and services. This requires working with your suppliers to reduce the overall environmental impact. It can encompass many areas of the sustainable business model, and in many cases can have a bigger impact than if you were to only address your direct operations. 

Supply chain carbon emissions and energy use are covered by scope 3 emissions and in many businesses these could account for the vast majority of emissions. Consider this, the supply chain of products accounts for more than 90% of their carbon footprint, and overwhelmingly consumers are looking for businesses who engage with sustainability through their whole business model. Ultimately, if you are in B2C business your brand name is at stake when it comes to unsustainable practice in your supply chain.

The CDP 2020 disclosure report showed that supply chain emissions for suppliers were 11.4 times more than operational emissions. For example, in Apple’s emissions inventory, they found that 99% of all their emissions are in scope 3, 81% of which is their supply chain – it is their suppliers who are mining, refining, processing, manufacturing and transporting their products.

Reducing your waste, water use, plastics use, impact on biodiversity, and the push towards a circular economy will all come through overhauling your business’s supply chain. By engaging with your suppliers and working for sustainable change in practice you have the opportunity to influence business decisions at a wider scale. Through dialogue and target setting you could negotiate renewal of contracts based on hitting defined emissions or energy targets. Of course you also have the opportunity to switch to more sustainable suppliers if you don’t get the results you need, and this is a powerful message to suppliers that sustainable commerce is the only viable future.

Keep reading Where to start? to find out how to engage your supply chain and begin the ripple effect.