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The Interdependent “Eco”s of a Sustainable Supply Chain

23 Nov 2015 | Stephen Bernard

Tagged: Planet, Caring for the Planet,

At first glance, factoring in sustainability for supply chain development may seem like making a choice between competing systems: ecological and economical. Although both systems are interdependent, the relationship is not wrought with conflict. Both systems can benefit when we identify and focus our work on areas in the supply chain where we can create harmony between the two. Examples include reducing waste or advancing innovation to increase efficiency and save natural resources, all while improving lifestyles in our “eco” surroundings.

We don’t see sustainability and profitability as mutually exclusive, but instead understand that factoring in social and environmental connections to our value chain is basic economics that helps to reduce cost and ensure long-term stability.

The root of “eco” in Greek is “house” or “household.” In words like ecosystem, ecology and economics, we see various “households” that we inhabit: our own home, our business, our community, our country and our planet. Those “households” overlap and are often interdependent with one another, each a building block in a broader system.

Thinking along these lines, it makes sense that we use “ecosystem” in business discussions all the time. Why? If we are thinking of sustaining and profiting in our “household,” then a healthy “eco”-system and strong economics are indicators of a sustained, advanced, innovative and – yes – profitable enterprise. That is why we take seriously the economics and ecological impacts of our supply chain.

Whether it is having strong Principles of Conduct for Suppliers, a focus on diversity, establishing scorecards and recognizing leaders, we work hard to ensure our household is in order when it comes to supply chain sustainability. We don’t see sustainability and profitability as mutually exclusive, but instead understand that factoring in social and environmental connections to our value chain is basic economics that helps to reduce cost and ensure long-term stability. That’s an “eco” we can all appreciate.

About the Author

Stephen Bernard

Supply Chain Sustainability Program

stephen_berard

Stephen Bernard is an environmental engineer and sustainability professional with over twenty five years of experience in telecommunications and aerospace. He is currently a Senior Sustainability Manager at AT&T responsible for supply chain sustainability, developing and managing new policies and programs that build sustainable business practices into supply chain operations. He is an active member of professional associations focused on sustainable business practices, including program manager for QuEST Forum’s sustainability team. Steve enjoys driving his second hybrid car, this one a plug-in, after trading his first 2002 hybrid with it still running fine at 200,000 miles. He has supported science and engineering education as a state science fair judge for over 25 years.

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