On February 23rd I had the pleasure of attending Zencargo’s virtual supply chain summit called Navigate. In this virtual meeting, professionals gather to discover how they can be rethinking their supply chain strategies for 2023. Some of the key topics were consumer demand, transitioning to digital new digital systems and sustainability. What really stuck out to me was the conversation about sustainability as this is a topic of growing importance not only within the supply chain industry.
Ian Powell, head of solutions at Zencargo, and Charlotte Pumford, the board observer of Vivobarefoot, led the conversation on sustainability within the supply chain industry. One fact that really stuck out to me is that shipping contributes to about 3% of greenhouse gas emissions every year, which I did not know before attending this event. According to the EPA, about 27% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation. Shipping making up 3% of this is likely because of all of the transportation vehicles used in the process. Vehicles such as trucks, cars and boats. Something that can change this is a switch to electric or eco-friendly vehicles to cut down the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We believe at Vivobarefoot that we are on a journey and a mission towards true regenerative impact,” says Pumford, “which means looking at the impact we have caused and trying our best to renew and restore and repair the negative impacts that we have made and trying to maximize on our positive impact.”
Pumford talks about the strategy of regenerative impact. Regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration and repair. It is not just enough for businesses now to change their practices to more sustainable ones. It is also important for them to give back to communities by planting trees or cleaning up a beach. I learned that if you want your business to move in a sustainable direction you must practice business decisions that are good for the environment and give back in a way that improves it as well. Businesses cannot just choose to do one or the other as they go hand in hand.
Businesses also need to be informed and work together for environmental improvement. Pumford talked about the value chain, which is a collaborative network of partner relationships that add value at every stage of the workflow. Having a community of those with similar values and being informed on what another business is doing can be helpful because businesses can share advice and information on the best way strategy for environmental improvement. Businesses isolating themselves from collaborating with others creates a community of distrust, which is not a good structural base for an ethical workplace.
“Collaboration is a huge aspect of regenerative impact and us getting to that stage in the future,” Pumford says. “When we talk about value chain, essentially, I think most people would know that as a supply chain for us we believe that a value chain is one which is collaborative, adding value at every stage and traditionally especially in our industry around apparel and footwear, supply chains are kind of one way transactional. But we want to be supporting collaborative and long lasting partnerships across our value chain.”
I also learned that airfreight is the biggest polluter when it comes to the supply chain industry. Consumer’s product demands are high, and some customers will pay overnight shipping fees in order to get their products faster. However, shipping by air can have extremely negative effects on the environment. Flights emit about 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide per kilometer of transportation. Governance on overnight shipping and new policies can help to improve the amount of emissions released when consumers order a product to be shipped overnight.
Another statement that I found interesting that Pumford made was that sustainability is no longer an option, it is the only option. There is only one earth, so we must act quickly and accordingly in order to save and sustain our planet. Sustainability has a long way to go, not only just in the supply chain industry. Open and honest relationships between businesses will help with sustainability methods and businesses need to utilize resources like credible environmental scientists for example to make decisions that have a low impact on our environment and give back to the planet.
In conclusion, I learned that governance, community, ethical worker practices and more customers that are educated on environmental impacts will help businesses become more sustainable and ethical for our planet. Every decision a business makes affects sustainability whether it’s large or small. Even though budgets are sometimes tight within supply chains, sustainability is not a cause that can be overlooked.