Experts Discuss How Supply Chains Can Become Carbon Neutral

By Jemima McEvoy Thursday, October 29, 2020

Climate change has become a larger topic of public conversation in recent years. Once ignored as a far-off hypothetical, the real-world impacts of how we treat our planet have become almost impossible to ignore. As a result, a number of corporations — which studies show are some of the biggest contributors to climate change, at least in the United States — have pledged to become carbon neutral.

Sustainable energy concept.

Carbon neutrality means achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. Companies want to do this because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has far-ranging environmental and health effects, which they have received heightened public pressure to address. Carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change and respiratory diseases, resulting in food supply disruptions, increased wildfires, and extreme weather (any of these sound familiar?).

Among a slew of other high-profile companies, Apple set a goal to be 100% carbon neutral by 2030. Ford Motor Company says it will reach this point by 2050. Verizon, Infosys, and Reckitt Benckiser have all signed a “Climate Pledge” from Amazon to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

However, while it’s clear that this is a positive goal for corporations that want to decrease their negative environmental impact, what isn’t clear is how exactly corporations can—and should—become carbon neutral. That’s where Supply Chain Academy comes in.

Supply Chain Academy was founded in 2011 to be a corporate training and eLearning solutions company, with a stated mission to support professional development and empowerment in supply chain organizations through innovative and cognitive training programs. A recent addition to the company, Professor Omera Khan, who is now Supply Chain Academy’s Executive Strategy Advisor, is focusing on content that can help supply chains today, produced in a new thought leadership series.

The first topic? How the heck does a company become carbon neutral.

“Climate change, its impact and what we can all do about it is more time critical than ever, we must step up to these changes NOW,” said Khan in a recent news release from the Supply Chain Academy, stating her aim to “demonstrate what steps are required to pursue zero carbon as part of a firm’s sustainability agenda” in the hopes that businesses “act today.”

Khan went about this mission in two different ways. The first was by hosting a thought-provoking panel with many industry experts, including Christopher Fielden, the group supply chain director at Innocent Drinks, Simon Geale, the senior vice president of client solutions at Proxima Group, and Julia Moshkin, the head of sustainability innovation at EcoVadis. These leading supply chain brains spoke for nearly an hour in September about why decreasing carbon emissions is important, what initiatives are being used in the profession to achieve this goal, and more.

“There are a whole number of things that we are doing,” said Fielden, explaining the first is “understanding your carbon footprint — tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 emissions — and committing to saying everything we do throughout our whole supply chain, we want it to have no impact.”

Fielden said the next challenge after making that commitment is figuring out how to execute the vision. “There are a whole manner of things we’re doing,” he said, “one of them is we’re building a manufacturing facility that will be entirely off-grid and carbon neutral … Other things are around how we can redesign our network about how we move things around the world. And another thing is we’ve partnered with truck suppliers.”

It’s a case of picking apart your supply chain process and thinking about how each step could be reimagined to make less of a negative impact—or no negative impact—on the environment. “Breaking down the things you do do every day is really important,” said Fielden. “How many miles do you drive, what’s the energy used to make your products, what’s the water being used. These are real things you can influence day-by-day.”

Nick Wilkins, the former SVP of Logistics at Avnet, warned that many companies fail to properly account for their carbon emissions because they do not consider the work that they’ve outsourced as contributing to the problem. “It’s really difficult,” he said. “It’s a really challenging topic to many companies.”

The second way the Supply Chain Academy addressed this topic was through the release of its own thorough report on how to reduce carbon emissions: “Route to Zero Carbon.” This report delves into the “awkward truths” of carbon emissions—which parts of the supply chain contribute most (transportation) and what solutions could be invoked to remedy them.

“If supply chains play their full part in emissions reduction, there are reasonable grounds for believing that total global net CO2 emissions will reduce,” reads the report. Suggestions for reducing carbon emissions, shown through a series of real examples from companies that have completed this goal, include developing carbon-neutral transportation options and production facilities.

However, each individual company’s journey to carbon neutrality will be slightly different. To learn more, take a look at Supply Chain Academy’s report on the subject or watch the expert roundtable discussion.

About the Author

Headshot of Jemima McEvoy

Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.

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