Building sustainable supply chains has its set of challenges, according a research report entitled, “Creating a transparent supply chain best practices” by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business Supply Chain Management. 

These include:

-The need to make rapid changes to the supply system to make them more sustainable in response to stakeholder, regulatory, and business leader requirements

-Providing more information on products, materials, manufacturing processes, supply practices, and warehousing/distribution processes in response to business leaders’ need to be more transparent with consumers

-Changing supply systems to create safer and more sustainable products in response to new government regulations

-Sharing progress on the supply chain sustainability journey in a way that positively resonates with their key stakeholders.

Another major concern that companies are creating strategies to overcome are new forms of supply chain risk. The researchers point to the fact that supply-side actions (or sometimes inaction) directly affects a downstream firm’s reputation and value.

“Not only do firms need to think about their own production and distribution strategies and operations No longer can supplier issues like child labor utilization, product contamination, sweatshop factory conditions, polluted waterways, or toxic spills (to name just a few types of concerns that have been showcased in recent years) be ignored by major manufactures or remain hidden from the broader public.

"The implications for doing so have severe consequences when the facts about these problems in the supply chain are released to the public following a major supply chain disruption similar to the incidents at Blue Bell, Nestlé, and Patagonia.”

To learn some best practices on how companies are handling all of these issues, it found that supply chain professionals are busy working on solutions to a multitude of sustainability issues including:

  • How to make sustainability projects drive total cost improvements
  • How to prioritize sustainability projects
  • How to ensure sustainable supply systems are built efficiently from the start of the product design phase
  • How to form new partnerships and relationships with suppliers and third party providers (3PLs) to form end-to-end sustainable supply systems
  • How to create and build sustainable plant and manufacturing systems (zero waste.)
  • How to select high quality, scientifically based organizations for endorsements and audit capability
  • How to lead community work on sustainable, ethical labor practices and environmental zero-waste systems