A Practical and Sustainable Sourcing Guide
The business-strategy concept of environmentally conscious sourcing goes by many names: green sourcing, ethical sourcing, environmentally friendly sourcing, sustainable sourcing, etc. Regardless of the varied labels, the end goals are all aligned: identifying, selecting, and funding products that are created with a lower environmental impact in a safe environment for workers who are treated ethically. Even in a global economy, there are simple and impactful ways of consciously sourcing products with sustainability, as well as profitability, in mind.
A number of factors can be taken into consideration when making greener product and supplier selections. Businesses that are trying to source products or services ethically typically observe several key considerations. First is product quality: do the materials meet accepted safety standards, have they been ethically tested, are the products safely constructed, are there any chemicals or plastics used that need to be disclosed, and is there a recall plan in place in case anything goes awry? Secondly, attention is paid to the environmental impact: has the carbon footprint been minimized or balanced, has waste been appropriately removed and managed, are biodegradable materials used when possible, is packaging minimal and recyclable, and are distribution and delivery processes eco-friendly? A final major consideration is a supplier’s labor practices: are fair wages provided for all employees, are safe and healthy working conditions provided, are the employee policies ethical with discrimination protections in place, and are there adequate health and leave benefits for the employees?
Although business owners whose company values are in line with ethical sourcing strategies may feel that the sheer number of product options is overwhelming, there are entities that can help in sorting through the myriad suppliers to identify quality product sources. They can identify environmentally positive practices of companies, as well as any practices of concern, and they can award certifications to those that meet the established criteria, with these findings being listed publicly for use in making product selections.
There are also other ways that businesses can engage in green sourcing strategies. For those companies committed to the idea, there are plenty of small ways by whereby change can be implemented. A simple practice like buying products in bulk can reduce packaging and transportation resources. Many companies are moving towards the use of electronic communication as much as possible. E-sourcing as a strategy has the ability to greatly reduce material and travel expenses by allowing buyers to research suppliers, obtain product information and bids from a number of suppliers, and complete transactions electronically. Consider the positive environmental impact of avoiding international sourcing expeditions or contract negotiations through the use of electronic strategies. Various software platforms are currently available to make e-sourcing even easier and more streamlined.
Aside from the positive social and environmental impact, eco-friendly sourcing can improve a company’s reputation, boost customer loyalty, and even increase the bottom line, as consumers have demonstrated a willingness to pay more for environmentally friendly products and practices. The idea of running a sustainable business isn’t a passing fad; it’s a business method that will help companies succeed well into the future.