The Green Promise in Supply Chains – Part Two

Nancy Anderson
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Evolution in supply chain processes is a part of the life of any Logistics Professional. This week’s post will continue the study of the paper by professors Sheffi and Blanco from MIT.

We ended Part One with the discussion of Wal-mart “raising its own bar” in public involvement with disaster relief services, and how it is now expected to respond. Raising the bar on a public service in the logistics world is a double edged sword. If the initiative gains media attention, the company could receive “free” worldwide exposure that can also become a microscope. The details of your new offering are no longer your “company secret”.

“Being Green” comes with rules! Green supply chain management extends into product use and recovery. Traditional supply chains that involve all parties who directly or indirectly employ logistic strategies to fulfill customer requests will now include suppliers extracting and transforming raw materials, manufacturing products, and delivering them to customers.

A typically green analysis focuses on:

  1. Energy. Reducing energy use and exploring renewable alternatives.

  2. Water. Cutting water volumes and countering contamination.

  3. Greenhouse gases (GHG). Scrubbing or sequestering GHGs.

  4. Waste. Minimizing the volume and categories of waste and disposal.

Green strategies evolve from “eco-efficiencies” into new business paradigms, with greater impact at each level. This vision invokes a broader view of supply chain responsibility, through five increasingly significant levels:

  • Process level. Rethink all supply chain processes to make them greener. For example, shipping then trucking to various destinations. Evaluating the greenhouse gas emissions from trucking, can redirect the entire air or container shipping strategy. Process-level improvements also include energy efficient building and equipment retrofits.

  • Materials level. Focus on the types and amounts of materials used. Consider post-consumer recycled sources to conserve raw materials and costs. For example, Procter & Gamble developed concentrated detergents, reducing water usage, weight, and shipping carton and shelf size.

  • Traditional supply chain level. Map out the entire supply chain from the product’s beginning until its disposal. This extends beyond your own supply chain to include all associated suppliers and customers down to the farm process level.

  • Functionality level. Think beyond greening of existing processes to developing alternative products and sources. Consider new procedures for acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, and final disposal of the product components.

  • Customer level. This highest level of green strategies results in new business paradigms. Restructured processes above must be in place before this stage creating “transparency” in the supply chain that shares green metrics with both suppliers and consumers.

  • Companies that reach beyond “eco-efficiencies” of energy conservation and product re-design, to new business models based on sustainability will become leaders in their fields.

Dr. Sheffi adds that “You may have to find new partners who are interested in creating a greener supply chain, but you can forge strong new relationships with them.” Sheffi suggests that an effective way to secure management support for green initiatives is to start small with local, low-risk endeavors. Document and demonstrate the results to management for their buy-in, then broaden the movement throughout the company.

You can do this!

By K.B. Elliott

K. B. Elliott is a freelance writer for Working various logitical positions in the Detroit area for over 30 years gives him a unique perspective on the process. To read more of his blogs, please go to, and be sure to check out the postings for jobs in nearly any industry at Nexxt.


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