Why is sustainability important in a supply chain? Prior to tackling this important question, let's review the basic structure of the supply chain in its simplest form:
- Manufacturer - People or companies that create or supply products for selling.
- Retailer - Seller of goods or products to the consumer (online shops or physical brick-and-mortar stores).
- Consumer- Those who buy the end product or service.
This is just a base overview, nevertheless, those listed above are the main "links" comprising the "chain". There are still plenty of entities existing within the supply chain, such as logistics and raw materials suppliers, but let's keep things simple for now.
Importance of sustainability within the supply chain needs to be beneficial for three things: people, planet, and profit. By aligning the interests, there is a better chance of successfully adapting meaningful changes towards true sustainability. Realizing that everything in this world is interconnected is still the biggest step we can take towards this goal.
You may know the idiomatic phrase "the bottom line", which was coined in the 1960's, as a reference to the profit and loss statement of a company. Of course, no one would want to operate a business without showing at least some profit. However, the question that we should be asking is "at whose expense?"
This is also why fair trade has become such an intrinsic part of sustainability. More often than not, it's the people at the bottom of the supply chain who suffer just for the sake of maximizing profits. The existence of fair trade ensures that the rights of disparaged people aren't trampled upon.
As consumers, we can dig in and learn more about where our products are being made so we don't end up buying products that abide by unethical practices. This prevents companies from exploiting "cheap labor" from unethical sources. As cliche as it may be, the least we can do is not to become part of the problem. Which is for sure harder than it sounds, to learn more on why ethical consumption isn't more mainstream check out last weeks post.
More importantly, the same line of thinking also applies to industries and companies that show very little regard for the sustainability of the planet. Egregious, or downright illegal, manufacturing methods show very little regard when it comes polluting the planet. A vital keypoint for sustainability should be aimed at protecting the planet's resources and livability (for all lifeforms) for the future. Businesses play a huge role in sustainability. Yes, consumers can demand more sustainable products and try to live more eco-friendly, but until companies offer products and take responsibility for what they make, we won't see a big change.
To reiterate, this is an oversimplification. For a more comprehensive viewpoint regarding sustainability, check out the 17 Sustainability Goals laid out by the United Nations. It should be stated that the UN hopes to attain these goals by 2030; so we have just less than a decade for reach these goals.
It's also important to mention that these goals cannot be achieved without the participation of everyone. Consumers, companies, regulating bodies, and governments need to work hand in hand in order to get results. Then, and only then, will the world be able to begin to experience the benefits of sustainable development.