Companies big and small are making more serious commitments to sustainability, quality and the environment.

These companies are not implementing sustainable practices because of legal regulations. Most companies are implementing those practices because they understand that with better care for social and environmental resources comes an improved reputation and increased satisfaction among customers, contractors, investors and other stakeholders.

While organisations can implement policies and practices for their employees, they won’t be able to make a big enough impact until they are able to involve their entire supply chain. A commitment to sustainability, though, creates significant implications for your partners and suppliers. It can be a difficult task to apply those new policies across the board consistently, because of your numerous partners and suppliers throughout all areas of the supply chain.

According to a recent study, implementation and enforcement of sustainable policies are still being done through paper, email and spreadsheets. While this might be fine for a small company (although we don’t recommend it), it can cause problems for large companies. Manual processes can lead to increased risk and non-compliance of sustainability standards, including the lack of standardisation in how employees and contractors are evaluated. Because the processes are manual, each evaluation is based on who performed the assessment and what standards they used.

Companies with sustainable goals should follow these four steps to improve their chances of success with these new programs.

Determine and then communicate sustainability expectations

First, your team needs to determine what sustainability goals your company will support. These goals need to be focused on measurable activities rather than hopeful and esoteric ideals. An MIT report suggests three ways to consider what goals you will set, based on the characteristics of your supply chain.

  1. Create a value chain map—a process to analyse areas in the supply chain that can provide opportunities for improvement—to determine the economic, environmental and social conditions across the supply chain and determine what each part of the supply chain can do to influence overall goals.

  2. Set science-based goals. Establishing goals that match scientifically important needs will help prioritize those needs and also potentially galvanize the entire supply chain toward a better cause.

  3. Develop context-based indicators in areas such as carbon, water, waste and social metrics. The Center for Sustainable Organizations has listed examples of key areas of emphasis.

Read the rest of Richard Parke’s article at Digital Supply Chain