Five steps towards a more sustainable supply chain
John Perry, Managing Director at SCALA, shares the processes businesses should undertake to become more sustainable.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly crucial to both consumers and key stakeholders alike, with research from Unilever finding that one in three consumers now choose brands based on their social and environmental credentials. This, combined with the UK having recently become the first major economy in the world to legally commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, means that businesses are now having to ensure that their supply chains are as sustainable as possible – the question is, how?
Developing a business case
The first step towards achieving a more sustainable supply chain is to build the business case for action. This will help to identify the highest priority supply chain issues for the company, evaluate opportunities and risks, and build the internal support needed to move forward.
The business case for a particular company depends on a variety of issues, including: industry sector, supply chain footprint, stakeholder expectations, business strategy and organisational culture. However, in most cases, supply chain sustainability offers a number of significant benefits.
This can include minimising business disruption from environmental, social and economic impacts; protecting a company’s reputation and brand value; reducing the costs of material inputs, energy and transportation; increasing labour productivity and fostering growth by meeting evolving customer and business partner requirements.
Establishing a vision
Once the business case has been successfully put forward, it’s important to then establish a clear vision for the company’s sustainable supply chain programme. Defining the objectives at the outset of the project will prove invaluable when it comes to devising the strategy. Having a vision in place also makes it easier to evaluate the success of the programme and identify areas for continued improvement.
In order to ensure full support from the business’s senior executives, which will be crucial for success, they should be actively involved throughout the creation of the vision. In addition to the c-suite, representatives from across the business including sales, marketing, finance, IT systems, manufacturing and procurement should be consulted, as each of these functions will have a role to play in the implementation of the sustainable supply chain programme.
A key element of supply chain sustainability is efficiency, which is best achieved through careful planning. Sophisticated digital modelling tools can provide end-to-end supply chain perspective, enabling businesses to pinpoint inefficiencies and design a more sustainable supply chain and logistics network going forward.
By assessing all potential options and analysing a range of future ‘what if’ scenarios, companies can ensure not only that their supply chain and logistics networks are resilient to future changes, but also that they can benefit both the environment and their bottom line by eliminating wastage and overspending.
For example, modelling software can help supply chain professionals to minimise physical space used by identifying redundant facilities or opportunities to rebalance storage, avoid empty miles by analysing their transportation network, and reduce emissions by directing inventory to serve demand.
While it’s impossible for businesses to fully control the practices of every third party they deal with in their supply chain, they should work to ensure that wherever possible they only partner with companies that share the same goals, sustainability values, and environmentally-conscious supply chain processes as themselves.
Customers will ultimately hold the businesses they interact with directly accountable for the products or services that are delivered. So, if it is discovered that products contain parts manufactured unsustainably that have come from an external supplier, it won’t be the supplier that faces the backlash and suffers the consequences.
Qualifying the right sourcing partners is a critical piece of the sustainability puzzle, and it requires businesses to enforce the same high sustainability standards to which they hold themselves. Establishing and communicating expectations through a supplier code of conduct is an effective way for businesses to involve suppliers in their sustainability efforts.
When looking to improve sustainability, logistics is one of the areas where the biggest difference can be made. With a large number of vehicles moving high volumes of goods to diverse and dispersed locations, there is a significant risk of inefficiency when it comes to transport operations.
In order to optimise their logistics network, businesses should look at whether their fleet’s size, type and geographic spread remains optimal; whether their distribution centres are in the right places; whether customer order profiles and delivery requirements have changed since the original transport operation was designed; and whether a dedicated transport operation is even still needed, or if it could be more economical and environmentally-friendly.
This will not only help to ensure that the supply chain can operate as smoothly as possible, but also reduce empty miles and carbon emissions, which has a significant positive effect on a business’s environmental impact.
In addition to helping the environment and satisfying public demand for ethical and environmentally sound business practices, sustainability can drive significant business value both now and long into the future.
For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief USA.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.