Growing a retail business comes with many challenges. You need to find the right suppliers and manufacturers. Also, you need tools and strategies to manage your inventory. It’s just as crucial to ensure that you can reach out to your customers through various online and offline channels.
Making your retail supply chain environmentally friendly and sustainable may not be one of your top priorities amidst the rigmarole of logistics.
But if you consider the huge environmental toll of your supply chain, you’d be compelled to take action. Every aspect of the supply chain, from sourcing raw materials and manufacturing to warehousing and shipping products, results in significant carbon emissions.
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Benefits of Sustainable Supply Chain Management
Establishing an eco-friendly supply chain will go a long way to boost your reputation as a retailer. That’s because of the growing awareness about sustainability and environmental protection among today’s consumers. Gen Z and millennials have developed an affinity towards brands that embrace sustainable and ethical practices.
Also, sustainable supply chain practices will result in significant cost savings and deliver a high return on investment (ROI). For instance, replacing traditional lighting systems in a warehouse with LED bulbs cuts power consumption and reduces your energy bill. Similarly, shortening the length of your supply chain minimizes transportation costs.
An eco-friendly supply chain creates a win-win situation for retailers, consumers, and the planet.
In this blog, we’ll discuss a few effective strategies that retailers can use to make their supply chains more sustainable.
1. Shorten Your Supply Chain
One of the easiest ways to minimize the carbon footprint of your supply chain is to cut its length by working with local suppliers and manufacturers. It’ll go a long way to cut down the fuel consumption required to transport raw materials and finished goods. It’s particularly useful when you’re sourcing or selling perishable goods.
If you’ve been working with vendors in foreign countries, it’s high time you start looking for local alternatives. Apart from cutting costs and carbon emissions, you get to support local businesses. It contributes to the development of the community, and bolsters your reputation as a brand that values customers and the environment.
Similarly, choosing warehouses in strategic locations will help minimize the transportation costs and carbon emissions for delivering finished products.
2. Find Transportation Alternatives
Depending on the type of products you’re selling, you might need to source some raw materials from overseas. Of course, air freight might seem like the most convenient option for such purposes. But the use of cargo airliners results in higher carbon dioxide emissions, thus contributing to global warming and climate change.
A more eco-friendly alternative is to work with a reputable sea freight provider. While getting your materials transported in cargo ships will take longer, ocean freight offers significant benefits for the environment. It’s more cost-effective when you’re looking to export or import small shipments.
Also, sea freight services provide a safer option for transporting hazardous materials, including chemicals, as well as heavy goods.
3. Ditch the Express Delivery
Apart from using sea freight shipping to import raw materials, you could also leverage it while exporting finished products to customers. You’d be surprised to know that many consumers can do away with express delivery options when they have an opportunity to contribute to sustainable business practices.
Also, you can offer incentives, such as cashback and discounts, to tempt customers to opt for slower shipping speeds. You could even offer free shipping to customers who choose standard shipping instead of express delivery.
Highlight the environmental impact of express shipping and explain why you’re recommending them to choose just-in-time delivery instead.
4. Focus on Ethical Sourcing
Who you source your raw materials from is just as important as how you source and transport them. If you want to improve the sustainability of your supply chain, you need to embrace ethical and fair sourcing practices.
It involves knowing where your raw materials come from and the conditions under which they are developed or manufactured. Make sure that the workers involved in the process receive adequate compensation. Also, watch out for unfair or discriminatory labor practices.
5. Prioritize Reverse Logistics
Sustainable supply chain practices are all about eco-friendly transportation and green packaging materials. You must also devise ways to prevent old, discarded, and defective products from ending up at the landfill.
It’s crucial considering the huge amount of retail products that make their way to the landfill every year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of textile goods sent to the landfill every year exceeds 26 billion pounds.
The best way of avoiding such scenarios is to provide customers with sustainable ways to dispose of old products. You could offer to pick up discarded goods and reuse or recycle them. You could even refurbish old products and resell them. Or you could connect them with local waste recycling centers.
Creating an environmentally friendly retail supply chain isn’t rocket science. It requires a deep understanding of the factors that contribute to increased carbon emissions. Also, you need to educate consumers about the importance of sustainability and encourage them to do their part to help you keep the supply chain green.