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Turning a New Leaf for Green Supply Chains

As a customer, a finished product may be all you are concerned about, but for the new socially aware consumer, how that product made it to them can equally impact your satisfaction with your product. The human carbon footprint’s impact on the environment has been a debated topic for many years. My generation and generations after will be directly affected by the way we are using and abusing our natural resources. As a result of our ability to prevent future Earth from looking like it does in the movie Wall-E, people have become more aware of what resources they use and how they use them, the humanistic approach to sustainability.

Sustainability is a term not only individuals, but companies are also revolving their business around today. You may notice more coffee cups assuring you it was made from recycled materials, or your plastic water bottle made with a certain percent less plastic material, but could these materials have been conserved all together in the first place? We are so caught up in this term of sustainability that we often forget the notion of conservation as well.

With SAP Integrated Business Planning for example, a supply chain is able to function with less inventory, then it is subsequently able to reduce raw material consumption, lower manufacturing and transportation energy consumption. This minimizes the overall amount of obsolete inventory to dispose of. These materials we are using that are made up from previously recycled materials may not had to be thrown away in the first place if it was not for obsolete inventory.

Unilever is a great example of a company who are embracing sustainability. According to, Unilever is focusing on a few core agricultural commodities in their tea production that will ensure “real change across their value chain”. The importance of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Strategy is also stressed, which includes a partnership with Solidaridad and a process for "continuous improvement" requiring suppliers to prove how they working towards environmental and social best practices (

Some of these best practices are seen at their estates in India, Kenya and Tanzania. For example, employees are researching less pesticide use and supporting natural diversity by preserving forests in the plantations. Some are also using plantation wood as fuel and hydro-electricity to generate electricity and reduce CO2 emissions. Unilever has also provided guidelines languages according to countries, which is necessary to communicate a universal approach, even to small supplier farmers, so everyone is on the same page (

Perhaps a company like Unilever can encourage you to research the practices of companies you are giving your business to and remember that what’s on the inside matters. After all, the trend will start to catch on and eventually be mandatory according to Top 3 of the Top 10 Supply Chain Trends for the Next 10 years. So, turn over a new tea leaf and be inspired by these companies to start encouraging and helping implement more sustainable supply chains.