Developed countries have long identified the industrial sector as a primary driver of increasing carbon emissions. In the modern business environment, our perception has steadily shifted to focus on corporate social responsibility and doing the right thing as a business to become sustainable. However, in your efforts to implement green practices at your manufacturing business, you may be missing out on the opportunity to exert an even greater influence. Here’s how working to improve your supply chain can affect large-scale change.
The impact of suppliers on the overall emissions throughout your supply chain will vary significantly with your product. Different materials used can entail a wide range of activities; for instance, canned beverages can draw upon sugar harvesting as well as aluminum mining.
Your first step should be soliciting emissions data from each of your suppliers, and requesting information on their green business practices. Using this information, you can decide whether to switch to a more sustainable supplier or one that’s closer to your manufacturing center and thereby reduce your total carbon footprint. Changes in packaging material and design can also be considered to achieve this goal.
Your supply chain may involve a single logistics company, or several handling inbound and outbound transport. Your business might operate a private fleet, for instance; if so, any measures you can take to manage your fleet and reduce emissions would have an immediate impact. Upgrading to larger trucks will let you handle bulk loads with fewer round trips; truck skate systems can offset any increase in loading time and productivity due to the vehicle’s size.
If your supply chain uses dedicated shipping and road freight companies, try to influence a shift towards those which participate in carbon disclosure initiatives, or have otherwise invested in fleet efficiency and maintenance to reduce their emissions.
As a manufacturer, you have full control over many processes that could drive down your carbon emissions. In many industries, for example, wastewater treatment allows the reuse of water in different parts of the workflow, simultaneously lowering emissions and expenses for your business. Similarly, switching to other alternative processes or technologies which increase efficiency will cut energy consumption and thus bring down costs; this should be one of the first approaches you consider.
In locations where it’s feasible, you can tap renewable energy sources to meet your operational requirements. Smart manufacturing technology is capable of adaptively distributing and adjusting the power supply, and is seen as a vital way for small-to-medium-size businesses to run sustainable manufacturing operations.
Once your product has passed through the facility and is headed toward the distribution center, it may be out of your hands, but there are still ways in which you can influence your distributor to help lower emissions. Ensure that any added packaging used along the journey to the consumer is economical, if at all necessary. Check the distributor’s compliance with local regulations and their record of waste management and recycling policies. If applicable, reverse logistics should also be considered, making it easier for customers to return products that should be as efficient as possible, both to improve the customer experience and minimize the carbon footprint of the whole return process.
When manufacturing businesses work to become more sustainable and lower their impact on the environment, optimizing internal processes is only part of the equation. You can achieve much more excellent results by working along your supply chain and engaging with involved stakeholders to collectively change the process.