Simply put, sustainability in business alludes to doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society. This is broken down into two categories:
The effect businesses have on the planet and the effect businesses have on society.
The supply chain encompasses every individual and all the activity involved from the beginning of the product lifecycle to the end of the product lifecycle. Since there are many different stages in this process, I have broken it into four main parts:
The producers, distributors, retailers, and customers.
So how do you add the concept of minimizing any negative impact that businesses have on the planet and its people to all of the different levels of the supply chain? We first have to know what role and function each link of the chain has.
Producers are people or companies that make and supply products or services. These can be categorized as harvesters of raw materials and those who make finished products. Harvesters of raw materials are those who farm, those who fish, and even those that mine. Those who make finished products include companies like Apple with an iPhone. Service providers are producers of services that support the operation of supply chains by offering a blend of services to each area of the supply chain.
Market research automation is the use of systems with minimal human intervention to automate data collection rather than the usual human face-to-face or phone research. Data sampling has also become increasingly automated. Providers like Smartlook, Heap, and Mixpanel provide services that make it simpler and quicker to fulfill survey goals. Automating your research can improve the accuracy of the results as well as increase the speed of the data collection, saving you money. This process will reduce the risk of mistakes and increase the quality and consistency of the information gathered, leading to faster execution, lower operating costs, and reduced errors.
Distribution centers are companies that take inventory in bulk from producers, then deliver a bundle of related product lines to other businesses and occasionally to the individual end user, but can be delivered on an individual basis. Both warehouses and distribution centers fall into this category. A warehouse stores the products made by a producer. A distribution center typically stores inventory, fulfills orders, then sends them to the next or final destination. For the duration your inventory is stored in a warehouse, the 3PL( 3rd party logistics ) company handles the fulfillment process and ships the orders to customers. If they are good 3PL providers, they usually control returns as well ensuring you will not have to worry about it.
According to FORBES, “AI is advanced enough to work in harmony with humans, combining powers to fast-track large-scale efforts to make real change when it comes to environmental sustainability, resource preservation, and waste reduction. From more intentional identification of potential emission impacts across energy operations to making entire cities smarter and more efficient, AI is already taking names when it comes to substantial results."
Retailers are people or businesses that sell goods to the public in relatively small quantities for use or consumption rather than for resale. Retailers are the community's answer to a product’s or service’s need to meet the supply and demand of customers who purchase at a level of individual need. Most retail companies use more than their storefront to accomplish this. On April 1st, 1976 Apple was started and 25 years later, on May 19, 2001, the company opened its first storefront. Some companies encompass most parts of the supply chain themselves, as Amazon does. No Amazon is not a producer, but they are a service provider for every part of the supply chain. Other companies are solely producers with digital storefronts like Microsoft and piggyback off of different brick-and-mortar stores across the world like Walmart.
Customers or consumers are individuals or organizations that purchase and use a product or service. A customer may also be an organization like a producer or distributor that purchases a product to make another product. Customers depend on producers, distributors, and retailers to meet their needs for products and services
Now that we know how we could be better for the planet. How much will it cost? Cost is a huge factor when considering the move towards a more sustainable supply chain. Some consumers and businesses choose to pay upfront for a long-term-profitable decision. It’s about the long game, getting beyond the initial change to create more sustainable businesses and understanding that it will not be the most immediately profitable practice. The deal between Amazon and Rivian will not be immediately profitable; however, when there are no costs or delays for gas, fewer repairs, faster routes because of an ERP, and customers will be happier because of speedier deliveries. There will be a return on investment like no other.
“Businesses are realizing that sustainability could mean avoiding steep costs due to future environmental changes” UNIBusiness, n.d.
Eco-friendly businesses consider environmental, economic, and social factors when making business decisions. These organizations build strategies to monitor the impact of their operations to ensure that short-term profits won't turn into long-term liabilities.
The goal of a sustainable business strategy is to make a positive impact in at least one area. When companies fail to assume responsibility, the opposite can happen, leading to issues like environmental degradation, inequality, and social injustice.
Sustainability is continuously growing in importance to customers. By adopting sustainable practices, you will not only be eco-friendly but increase your profits and competitive advantage as well. Concerns about the packaging materials used for eCommerce deliveries have led to most online shoppers thinking, that packaging materials should be fully recyclable. Businesses, on the other hand, are considering overhead, labor, and software costs to become more sustainable. One common factor throughout the supply chain in making businesses more sustainable is the digital factor. Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create or upgrade business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. Digital transformation can give you better insights and processes to complete daily tasks that you do daily manually, automatically, and more efficiently. Digitalization will save you time and resources while making the business more efficient, and cohesive for a better experience for everyone involved.
Communicating the importance of integrating sustainable strategies into digital transformation means thinking beyond profit and putting social and environmental concerns on equal footing with financial goals. The top floor executives have to start to move from short-term thinking and instead consider the long-term effects.
Digital technologies are transforming how environmental sustainability-related issues are measured and controlled. There is not enough understanding in the business world on how organizations can adopt these practices to make informed decisions on the topic. The tactics needed to ensure environmental sustainability, are infused into digital transformation. The accelerated rate of digital transformation has opened industries and societies to new opportunities for creating more value while creating better products for the future at the same time. Now, it’s time to use these opportunities to build sustainable economies for improved processes, improved consumer satisfaction, reduced waste, and reduced pressure on the natural environment. As you start to look for online solutions for business sustainability, these are a few important considerations.