This article was written by Strategic Sustainability Consultants, one of our proud corporate partners.
Not all small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can afford to invest time and money into sustainability practices within their own businesses. However, this does not mean that these SMEs are unable to commit to sustainability at all. It just needs a different approach.
Supply chain sustainability is a fantastic way for SMEs to make a commitment to sustainability without breaking the bank and consuming hundreds of hours.
What is supply chain sustainability?
Supply chain sustainability is the act of setting and meeting certain targets to ensure your business is engaging suppliers who uphold certain principles of sustainability.
How can supply chain sustainability count towards my sustainability commitment?
By engaging suppliers who are committed to sustainability, you are demonstrating your own commitment to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of our planet. For example, if a café sources coffee, which is both fair trade certified and sustainably grown, that café is showing that they are committed to ensuring people around the world are working in fair and safe environments and to ensuring the ongoing environmental sustainability of our planet.
How does my business set targets for supply chain sustainability?
When it comes to supply chain sustainability, the first step is to map out your suppliers. How many suppliers does your business have? How many different industries do these businesses represent? Are you considering your service suppliers as well as your goods suppliers?
The next step, if you have not already done this, is to identify your own business’ values. Do you want to show a particular commitment for any aspect of sustainability? What do you prioritise when it comes to sustainability? A good way to identify these values is through the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
The next step is to set achievable targets for your business supply chain in both the short term and the long term. Let’s say you have 20 suppliers associated with your business and only 3 of them currently have a sustainability commitment. Maybe your goal for the next financial year is to have 25% of your suppliers who have a sustainability commitment. Maybe your goal for the financial year after that is 50%.
After you have set your targets, it is important to advise your supplier base, especially the suppliers who do not meet your sustainability requirements. If they are a long-term supplier who values your business, you might just inspire them to start their journey towards sustainability! If they are not interested in making a commitment to sustainability, this is a great opportunity to shop around for new suppliers who meet your business’ and your clients’ needs.
Once you start achieving some of these targets, you will be able to share the news with your supplier base and your client base through a variety of communication channels.
Pro tip: Another great way to engage your suppliers in a sustainability commitment is to have a document, outlining your business’ values when it comes to sustainability for your suppliers to sign to say they agree to these values and commit to upholding them in their own business. While this does not promise as much of a tangible and measurable commitment towards sustainability, it is a fantastic tool to start the conversation with your suppliers and show that you are serious about your sustainability journey. It also provides your suppliers with some insight about to what your future demands of their business might be.
If your business is ready to begin goal-setting for your supply chain sustainability, contact Strategic Sustainability Consultants today, so we can assist in guiding you through the process!