Sustainable supply chains

It’s a bit of a buzzword at the moment, but why should we care about supply chains and how can they be sustainable?

There was panic in aisles back in March after it was announced that we would be going into lockdown and suddenly our collective thoughts turned to loo roll. The images of empty shelves epitomised the start of pandemic, and made the role of the supermarket Supply Chain Manager famous. The intricacies of getting flour, apples and your favorite biscuits to the shelves exposed the often forgotten about, or at least not very sexy, supply chain.

What is a supply chain anyway?

A supply chain is the network of activities required to get a product or service to the consumer. We are incredibly reliant on them, and major events like a pandemic can change our daily lives. As the world went into different lockdown measures, a closure of a manufacturing plant in China is felt in the UK months later.

The social and environmental impacts of supply chains are HUGE

Complex global supply chains are incredibly damaging to our world. More often than not they create massive environmental impacts from the extraction, transport, and processing of raw materials. Ruthless exploitation of labour and poor health and safety is widespread as consumers demand lower prices. And lack of transparency leaves them open to countless varieties of corruption and law-breaking.

But the days of complex multinational supply chains may soon be over.

As we emerge from the pandemic we are increasingly looking at how supply chains can be smarter, shorter and more sustainable. Making supplier choices that are eco friendly and ethical is what Good Beans is all about, and it’s in the interest of businesses too, as improving supply chains can reduce operational costs, improve profit margins and brand image.

Thankfully there is help at hand

Even if you are a small business, now is the time to review your suppliers and enquire into their procurement practices. Can they do better, or should you find an alternative supplier or product? What do your customers want you to do, and how can you communicate your progress?

If you want to get it right there are some fantastic organisations to help businesses improve their supply chains. Our friends and Allia buddies Supply Change connect organisations who need goods and services, with social suppliers so they can enjoy quality with a dollop of positive impact too.

Social Enterprise UK have produced a handy guide for businesses big and small that are interested in buying goods and services from the UK’s social enterprise sector. Since there are 70,000 social enterprises operating in the UK in almost every industry there should be no excuse for not finding what you need.

Sustainability consultants Forum for the Future have been thinking about supply chains for some time and have produced many resources on the future of farming, fashion, single use plastic and many more.

CIPS is the member organisation for procurement excellence and has a wealth of resources, courses, networking and support for businesses.

And if you are office based, check out our list of ethical service providers with alternatives for everything from banking to biscuits.

Do let us know any organisations working in ethical procurement and we’ll add them to the list!