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Sustainability in Supply Chain

Supply chain is the process of creating products from raw materials until they are delivered to the customer. Starting from the beginning is starting with the process of supply chain. To create more sustainable packages, the supply chain process must also be more sustainable for the environment. Supply chain sustainability aims to reduce environmental harm from influences like water consumption, waste production, and energy usage. Recently, many businesses have come under pressure for the amount of resources and money they use, which has been seen as unnecessary. Sustainable operations have started to grow stronger year after year to create better life cycles for their products.

According to research, the supply chain accounts for most of a company's environmental impact. As items are manufactured and transported worldwide, supply chains frequently involve energy-intensive production and transportation. Therefore, companies can often have the most impact by changing their supply chain rather than altering other business procedures. Additionally, companies can use computer-based software to ensure that products are not being shipped unnecessarily. In Indiana, the Subaru car plant was the first zero-waste factory where they used reusable containers for shipping, recycled Styrofoam packaging used multiple times, and non-recyclable material incinerated to produce energy. In two years, it became the first United States auto plant to achieve zero-landfill status. Challenges

The main barrier to more sustainable supply chains is cost, with smaller businesses finding it incredibly challenging to bear the initial expenses. However, long-term investment in compact packaging, for instance, can result in fewer smaller shipments, a more negligible environmental impact, and cost savings. In addition, another survey was done where 20% of respondents said they weren’t interested in shifting to sustainable practices because of their complexity. Since public opinion has shifted rapidly in favor of corporate social responsibility, many believe the gap between low-cost procurement and sustainability is closing. Costs are, therefore, clearly justifiable and likely to be recovered in the long run. Not implementing sustainable practices in the supply chain sooner rather than later is also a cost. By 2026, environmental supply chain risks are predicted to cost $120 billion, according to some estimates. This implies that delaying the implementation of sustainable systems now could result in significant costs in the future. This could mean a high cost now could be a higher cost later. Ecological integrity as a norm and sustainability in the supply chain as a standard practice is being advanced by researchers, analysts, and industry leaders. Still, it is likely that — at least globally — this will take more time.

Methods to Make Supply Chain Sustainable

One method is finding the current pain points of the supply chain. Calculating the product's carbon footprint is the first step to finding the pain points. By calculating that, you can identify which operations need improvement and develop an effective sustainability strategy. Around 80% of the manufacturing, food, electric-electronic, and textile industries' entire product carbon footprint is accounted for by scope 3 GHG emissions. Another method is by using environmentally friendly packaging materials. "According to the European Union, only 1% of plastics are biodegradable" (Gencer). Typically, plastics' effective recycling rate is low because they are so resistant to the environment. Plastics, even though are well known for their drawbacks, they are frequently used because of their low price. For a sustainable supply chain, businesses should utilize biodegradable packaging materials. An example is in Figure 2 of a recycled shipping package.

Using these recyclable materials helps the sustainability of the supply chain and the environment. Another method is finding different suppliers for the packages or materials used in the supply chain process. Finding other suppliers can help diversify materials that can be tested to see how much they impact the supply chain. It can help when unpredictable supply shocks come through because it's inevitable to happen at some point, especially if another pandemic were to happen.

Examples of Sustainable Supply Chains

In 2021 Bed Bath & Beyond launched eight brands that dealt with kitchen/dining and storage/organization. These eight brands were its brand which provided the benefit of a more diversified and resilient supply chain strategy. Now Bed Bath & Beyond has greater control over what goes into its supply chain, including sustainable materials. According to its new program, less than 50% of packing weight is made of virgin plastic, and at least 50% of cotton and wood are supplied ethically or sustainably. L'Oréal changed its attention to agility and improved its supply chain, intending to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. With these changes, L'Oreal is currently ranked 4th globally for its supply chain. Many of its distribution hubs will have met their objective of utilizing only reusable plastic by the end of 2020. L'Oréal incorporated a program of demand sensing anticipated planning to avoid supply chain disruptions caused by inaccurate estimates. This strategy can give the ability to respond in real time to the market outlook. This makes the supply chain more sustainable and resilient. An egg-white-based food wrap brand Egglife hired a new lead supply chain officer. Hiring Cynthia Waggoner, a dedicated supply chain officer, helped sustain growth without sacrificing the sustainable standards they are built on. Egglife anticipated it could double its production capacity in 2022 while being able to stay committed to cage-free eggs.

Collecting data from beginning to end and connecting that data can significantly increase the business’ sustainability. Reducing single-package materials whenever possible can have a significant impact as well. Almost 2.1 billion pounds of plastic are used by the e-commerce industry and expected to double by 2025. A significant industrial trend driving product development and innovation is the search for sustainable packaging alternatives. In Europe, laws are coming into effect that require a tax on plastic packaging starting in 2022.

This shows how green practices can be adopted and integrated into their businesses. It can add value through operations of the whole chain while reducing costs and waste and increasing recycling and efficiency. This ties in with the sustainability of supply chains and creates a better world for humans and animals. Creating a better environment to live in and supporting the growth of businesses can help the world grow in a way that can be unimaginable.

In conclusion supply chain is an important factor in packaging. Without an effective supply chain process, there is wasteful packaging, higher costs, less recycling, and less efficiency. Starting at the beginning with the process helps the packaging aspect in the end. E-commerce is growing more and more, so packaging has become more important. Less waste means a cleaner environment; this factor also persuades customers to do business with these companies consistently.


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Trax Technologies Trax is the global leader in Transportation Spend Management solutions. We partner with the most global and complex brands to drive meaningful optimizations and savings through industry-leading technology , & Technologies, T. (n.d.). 5 key challenges to building a supply chain with environmental sustainability in mind. trax. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from

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