Sustainability, a lot of people regard it as an environmental issue, the climate change topic. Something that is far away from the day-to-day life. But it is more. It is a way of thinking in which we are striving to a balance in economic, social, environmental and ethical value. Sustainable supply chains are the result of processes that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It encompasses more than care for the environment.
How can we incorporate the sustainability approach into our Supply Chain? By taking the below 7 steps into account.
STEP 1: Change consumption habits
A study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that the stuff we consume - from food to knick-knacks - is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total land, material, and water use.
“We all like to put the blame on someone else, the government, or businesses. ….. But between 60-80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption. If we change our consumption habits, this would have a drastic effect on our environmental footprint as well,”
So, the first step to become more sustainable is without any doubt: Change consumption habits. This would have a drastic effect on our environmental footprint and will create sustainable supply chains.
That sounds easier on paper then in practice. In changing habits, we also try to finger at others. But what are our own habits?
At my home there are living - besides me, my wife and the cat - four teenagers. They discovered early the benefits of online shopping. Every day there are some parcels coming from Amazon, AliExpress or other eCommerce retailers. And what is inside? Mostly rubbish from China.
” Oh daddy, I bought this nice phone cover for only $1, free shipping. I couldn’t resist it.”
And after a couple of weeks it usually end up as trash. But this is not the only example how we introduce bad habits in our lives. …… Do we separate our trash? Is the trip with the car really necessary? Should we fly three or more times per year to have a holiday? Usually this is the point where the sustainability discussion stops. May I not enjoy life? I cannot change the world alone. I am not the only cause of climate change, waste or overconsumption. And then we continue ... to do nothing.
"You must change your consumption habits, but it is not necessary to that drastically in one run."
But we can do something. Start with changing only one bad habit into a more sustainable alternative and encourage people in your environment to do the same. Make small steps, but implement it in such a way that it stays sustainable. You can also implement it in your business supply chain. Take for instance 10 suppliers, and let them make 1 sustainable change in their supply chain, and ask them to do the same with 10 of their suppliers. The multiplier effect will be huge and we will change gradually our consumption habits.
"One small change, that must be doable…. but a lot of small changes can make that needed big change."
Secondly, businesses have to start emphasize sustainability and changing behaviour. Being a leader means to look critically at all aspects of your business. Engage in the debate and enabling customers, co-workers, and partners to take action and contribute. Even though IKEA has accomplished many things, they state that they are only at the beginning and there is still much to be done. They will - together with others - define what sustainable consumption means for IKEA. They will develop all products using their design approach and circular design principles. We will work together with others to prolong the life of products and materials and thereby promote a sharing and circular economy. Coca Cola announced in 2018 a pledge to recycle a used bottle or can for each one the company sells by 2030. Coca Cola uses three million tons of plastic packaging in one year. To imagine that, take the volume of one blue whale and multiply that with 15.000. That's roughly three million tons.
The other way to change consumption behaviour, is done by the governments. An example is the Single-Use Plastic Directive of the EU. These rules on single-use of plastics items and fishing gear - addressing the ten most found items on EU beaches - place the EU at the forefront of the global fight against marine litter. They are part of the EU Plastics Strategy - the most comprehensive strategy in the world adopting a material-specific lifecycle approach with the vision and objectives to have all plastic packaging placed on the EU market as reusable or recyclable by 2030.