The simplest way to define supply chain sustainability is "reducing costs while eliminating waste." But true sustainability goes beyond lower costs and less waste. At its core, sustainability represents a genuine concern for those who follow in our footsteps. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WECD) defined sustainable development as that which "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
When your company, your employees, and even your business partners employ sustainable practices, you are sending a message to your customers and to the entire global community that you care about them because you care about the environment. Moreover, sustainability is here to stay in the logistics and supply chain management arenas. This is a good thing—for our companies, our customers, our communities, and our grandchildren.
The global recession may have slowed down some organizations' sustainability initiatives, but more companies are making this one of their top strategic priorities for 2011. True, government regulations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Air Act, are driving some of these initiatives. But many leading companies are of their own volition working to reduce the carbon footprint of their entire supply chain. It's just smart business. Major players around the globe are seeing the value of employing sustainable practices, not only in terms of stronger profits but also in terms of increased customer goodwill. That's one reason why truck manufacturers, for example, are producing new engine models that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and they are offering companies. And those are just a fracinnovative vehicle designs that reduce wind drag and, therefore, fuel costs.
In other industries, companies are working to reduce the amount of packaging their products require in an effort to reduce waste. Others are retrofitting warehouse roofs with solar panels so they can use that energy to run their operations or sell it to the power tion of the "green" steps companies are taking today.
While many companies are making great strides individually, we also need to work collectively to solve larger sustainability concerns. In order for any nation to be truly "sustainable," it has to be able to get the energy it needs—without interruption—to power its economy. When a country has to import energy resources, its economy becomes more vulnerable to disruption. Wise governments and companies, therefore, try to develop more local sources of energy. For the United States, for example, that might mean using more of the country's abundant natural gas reserves in place of foreign oil.
Whether it's moving toward energy independence or designing greener warehouses, responsible businesses must demonstrate sustainable practices and a corporate social conscience. Today's supply chain managers are leading efforts to operate their companies and their supply chains more sustainably. We have been at the forefront of this movement for decades and will continue to blaze the trail to a leaner, greener, and better tomorrow.