The greenhouse effect is a fact. There are a lot of opinions that our planet is facing a climate catastrophe. There are appeals all over the world to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. The European Union has become a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Changes in the law related to climate, accompanied by the growing environmental awareness of consumers, puts enterprises under pressure to introduce more and more eco-friendly solutions. One of the most important is the Green Supply Chain.
Supply Chain is a term that appeared in common use in the second half of the 20th century. It means a series of steps involved in delivering the finished product to the end user from the sourcing of raw materials (e.g. metal ore extraction). In this model, the relationships between suppliers are based on cooperation, not antagonism and the use of a dominant position. Green Supply Chain (GSC), as the name indicates, is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at every stage. It can only work if all participants in the supply chain cooperate.
Which supply chain links may become green?
Every link in the supply chain can go green. Here are some eco-friendly solutions in the most important stages:
- raw materials supply – even if you do not always have an influence on the conditions in which raw materials are extracted, you have the right to choose such a source of them that guarantees the minimisation of the negative environmental impact and respecting human and labour rights;
- production – green production processes aimed at minimising the negative impact on the environment, by, for example, the use of electricity from RES (renewable energy sources), the use of low-emission technologies, proper waste management and respecting labour rights;
- advertising and promotion – green marketing uses eco-friendly advertising media, product packaging and promotes pro-ecological attitudes;
- distribution and sales – offices, warehouses and shops can be green, e.g. thanks to the use of energy-saving, automatically controlled lighting, using photovoltaics to produce electricity and heat, using natural lighting, etc.;
- waste disposal – you can start thinking about waste disposal, and the recycling and/or re-use of a product or its components even at the product design stage;
There are a lot of possibilities for applying eco-friendly solutions in transport – which is necessary in the whole supply chain. You can for example use ecological means of transport (e.g. replacing road transport with rail) and packaging. You can even decrease the number of deliveries necessary. For example you can adjust packaging sizes to the goods to be shipped and ensure the optimal usage of cargo space. Packing planning algorithms are ideal for this purpose, thanks to which you can reduce unnecessary “air transport”.
Is a green supply chain a necessity?
Changes in regulations and policies in relation to climate issues put emphasis on environmentally friendly activities. The world leader in activities aimed at climate protection is the European Union. Regardless of what their opinion is, enterprises in EU countries have to adapt to legal requirements. You have to purchase CO2 emission allowances to have a right to emit, which is an additional incentive to take pro-ecological actions.
Green production or logistics solutions were not invented in the last decade. However, over the years they have been a kind of expensive extravagance. Changes in social awareness made it beneficial for companies to be eco-friendly – even when it is not required by the regulations. This is because more and more consumers are interested in the technologies and conditions in which the products they want are made. Adidas shoes made of rubbish is an often cited example of how efficiently ecology may sell. Sports shoes made from fishing nets and plastic bottles turned out to be a hit: over a million pairs were sold in the first year once placed on the market. Changes in consumer behaviour affect manufacturers’ business strategies. The attitude of corporate social responsibility is no longer a choice, but more and more often a necessity for companies that want to develop and acquire new customers. Concern for the natural environment has become a kind of new, transnational patriotism.