For years, consumers have been concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy. But it’s no longer enough to know the percentage of recycled materials in the packaging. Savvy shoppers are now looking at the big picture, including manufacturing, transportation and even the sources of the raw materials in the items they buy. In short, before they pull out the credit card, they’re considering the entire supply chain.
What exactly is a supply chain?
A supply chain is comprised of every person, company, and resource involved with the manufacturing of a product from beginning to end. It can include the mine from which natural resources are extracted, the transportation systems that bring the finished product to the store and all points in between.
Supply chains can consist of multiple layers, making them extremely complex. This intricacy presents significant challenges to making a supply chain socially and environmentally responsible.
How does a supply chain impact the environment?
The production of any kind of product uses energy, consumes natural resources, produces waste and creates emissions. From chemicals released during mining processes to the carbon emissions of trucks used to transport products to the energy consumption of store lighting, environmental issues can occur at any point in the chain – or all of them.
What makes a supply chain green?
When a company works to green its supply chain, it requires that every company it does business with meet a certain level of environmental responsibility. If suppliers don’t meet those standards, the company may choose to select an alternate provider who will.
From simple improvements in the company recycling program to switching an entire manufacturing facility to wind or solar power, a green supply chain accounts for responsible energy usage, resource consumption, waste production, emission releases and even toxic chemical management.
What companies are making efforts to green their supply chains?
More and more large companies are working toward environmentally responsible supply chains. One of the biggest – Wal-Mart stores - has just announced the launch of Love, EarthTM jewelry, its first completely traceable, responsibly produced jewelry line.
READ MORE: Partnerships for Responsible Mining
Wal-Mart worked closely with its suppliers, mining company partners and Conservation International to develop environmental and social criteria for sourcing materials for the line. All Love, Earth items will be produced with 100 percent traceable gold and silver, which are mined and manufactured to specific standards and criteria.
How did the Wal-Mart initiative develop?
As the largest retailer of jewelry in the world, Wal-Mart recognized the opportunity to promote more sustainable practices throughout the jewelry supply chain. They saw areas for improvement throughout the supply chain, including mining, refining, polishing and cutting and manufacturing.
Working closely with CI, Wal-Mart developed criteria that address compliance with laws and regulations, the management of environmental and social issues, and a contribution to the sustainable development of the communities impacted by mining operations. The detailed criteria can be found on www.loveearthinfo.com.
What is the future of the green supply chain?
More and more companies are seeing the environmental and commercial benefits of a green supply chain. Many have even appointed Chief Sustainability Officers, charged with implementing and overseeing their green initiatives. Green business is fast becoming the smart, strategic way to do business. It’s not only good for the environment – it’s good for the bottom line, too.
READ MORE: Responsible Jewelry Shines Brighter