Part Two: How Green is My Supply Chain?

In part one of this two-part series, I discussed the growing importance of the carbon footprint. Some important questions might remain. How do I measure the carbon footprint of my products, and why should I? There are three reasons:

1. Rapid increases in energy costs means there are substantial savings to be made.

2. Existing and planned legislation penalizes high energy consumption and rewards emissions reductions.

3. Changing consumer attitudes about climate change present forward thinking companies with an opportunity to develop and market low carbon products.

It is argued that simple market economics create change, but projects in Europe looking at the total carbon footprint of two relatively simple products, newspapers and potato crisps, show this is not the case. Carbon emission savings were found in the following areas:

Correcting a market failure. When there is a perverse incentive between companies in the supply chain, extra cost and extra carbon emissions are artificially created.

Product change. Changing the final product mix or product configuration can reduce emissions across the supply chain.

Supply chain reconfiguration. Changing specific processes or the way processes are completed can reduce emissions at key stages in the supply chain.

The supply chain approach has the potential to achieve reductions in carbon emissions and yield financial benefits such as cost reductions and enhanced consumer-perceived benefits. Even if your manufacturing company is not making consumer products, the probability is that you make a product used by someone further down the supply chain. Sooner or later, everyone in the supply chain will be required to quantify the carbon footprint of products that comes through their supply chain, whether they have recognized the benefits of doing this in advance or are forced to catch up by the changing demands of their market.


— Stuart Burns

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