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May 11, 2022

Five Steps to Prioritize Sustainability in the Ecommerce Supply Chain

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This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.

Sustainable business practices are no longer a trend but a must-have. Consumers demand it, and a greener future benefits all businesses. Regardless of company size or the product category you sell in, you need to prioritize sustainability in your eCommerce supply chain.

Consumers prefer to buy from businesses with sustainable practices. A recent Forrester report cited a spike in consumer concern for climate change, resulting in a preference to buy from brands that share their same values of environmental consciousness. Some companies match these values by pledging sustainable practices—including big-name brands like REI, Patagonia, and IKEA—while others are falling behind.

If you’re still struggling to prioritize sustainability in your Commerce supply chain, here’s what you can do:

Understanding Sustainable Supply Chain Management (And Steps To Achieve It)

A sustainable eCommerce supply chain takes into account the environmental and social impacts involved in a product’s life cycle. This includes sourcing, manufacturing, delivery, and everything in between. The implementation of a sustainable supply chain can become a logistical issue if your business fails to build a solid plan. We’re here to help you with that plan.

Step 1: Create Goals You Can Stick To

A sustainable supply chain begins with packaging. According to Capgemini’s Circular Economy for a Sustainable Future report, packaging alone is responsible for 50% of annual global waste production. Look for areas in which your delivery management systems may be negatively impacting the environment and work with your team to find a solution. Highlight key areas accumulating the most waste and energy and make those a priority to improve.

For example, Apple has committed to eliminating all plastic in its packaging by 2025. Since the COVID-19 pandemic increased online shopping, more consumers are seeing how quickly waste piles up. Focusing on both your product and delivery packaging is a great place to visibly show your sustainability efforts.

Step 2: Reevaluate Your Inventory Management System

If your company does not already have an inventory management system in place, now is the time. Unsold inventory can create a lot of physical waste. Reevaluating your inventory management system allows you to track inventory in real time, identify the speed at which inventory sells, and in turn, have a stronger sense of when to restock. Not only does an inventory management system help your business to become more sustainable by reducing inventory waste, but it will also provide data to help you increase your revenue.

Step 3: Create Sustainability Expectations

Now that you know the basics, sit down with your team and create a sustainability plan. Map out your sustainable supply chain goals so that you’re able to measure the effectiveness of your initiatives. Consumers appreciate a business that not only talks the talk but walks the walk. Communicate your goals so that your plan for sustainability is transparent for not only your consumers, but also your supply chain partners, other stakeholders, and of course your internal teams.

If you’re looking for ways to communicate your sustainability goals within your company, consider creating a supplier code of conduct. The United Nations Global Compact publication provides guidelines and tips for getting started: Supply Chain Sustainability – A Practical Guide for Continuous Improvement. While this is essential to build and share with your business, sharing this model with the public also helps maintain transparency.

When creating and communicating your expectations with suppliers, consider factors such as:

  • Health and safety
  • Recycling
  • Carbon emissions
  • Water use and treatment

Step 4: Provide Training

Sustainability in your eCommerce supply chain may be new or it may be something that your business has been working towards for quite some time. Either way, you need training and capacity-building programs to create and maintain behavioral changes within your supply chain.

It’s essential your team understands and follows the sustainability expectations of your business. Establishing supplier-and-peer education programs helps provide training to your workers so they can buy into your green initiatives. Be sure that all employees have a solid understanding of what exactly to look for in regard to your sustainability expectations. For example, do they know what questions to ask a potential new supplier regarding carbon emissions?

Step 5: Join Industry Collaborations

Focusing on sustainability can not and should not be up to one company, but rather the eCommerce industry as a whole. Collaborate with others in your industry working towards a common goal. Work together with brands that share your values and mission to integrate higher standards of environmental and business practices. You may find that other companies have sustainability plans that your company would like to adopt including The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and World Resources Institute.

When in Doubt, Find a Partner With Sustainable Efforts

Working with eco-friendly fulfillment and shipping centers helps your supply chain become more efficient by reducing waste and lessening energy usage. Partnering with a 3PL like Flexport means you’re working towards reducing transportation times with efficient inventory management systems already in place, utilizing sustainable best practices.

Now Is the Time To Get Started With a Sustainable Supply Chain

Saving the planet is no small feat. Your eCommerce supply chain can help and meet consumer expectations for sustainability if you focus on these steps:

  • Start with your supply chain delivery
  • Take a look at your inventory management system
  • Communicate your expectations with everyone involved
  • Provide ample training
  • Collaborate with others in your industry

Still not sure where to begin? We’re here to help. Schedule a meeting with an expert to see how you can improve your carbon footprint.

The contents of this blog are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. We do not guarantee, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the contents of this blog because they are based on Flexport’s current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This blog has been prepared to the best of Flexport’s knowledge and research; however, the information presented in this blog herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this blog.

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Rise Up, Entrepreneurs

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