Years ago, the chief considerations involved in managing your shipping solutions were the "3 Ps"—protection during display and shipping, presentation of the product and price. Now, business operates in a climate that's more transparent and consumer-informed than supply chain professionals could have dreamed of, decades ago. The impact of not only materials, but methods on the environment must enter the decision equation to keep a company competitive, and that means that "going green" on some level is more or less a universal goal, regardless of industry.
Navigating the (non-polluting waters) isn't always easy, but here are a few tips to guide your decision-making:
Start Shipping Green
Your package carriers are on the front line of product movement, which means they probably know more than you think about eco-friendly solutions for shipping. Working with a conscientious carrier allows you to communicate those efforts to your customers, allowing business-as-usual to double as a laudable green bullet point in your initiatives. Remember to examine the financial impact of every ecological shift in packaging. Factor in any tax credits for diligent recycling efforts or use of solar, wind or similar renewable energy in your intra-company fulfillment center. Not all green efforts are created equally when it comes to holistic cost, and it isn't worth damaging your bottom line taking on a complete eco-shipping overhaul when smaller, affordable efforts may have the same collective impact.
Go Green without Spending All of Yours
There are always rumors of environmental-targeted regulations on the horizon—input, output, shipping tariffs, disposal fees—but don't let them scare you into making a hasty decision that you'll be paying off in more ways than one. Appoint or hire a third-party efficiency appraisal team to determine where your company is falling short in terms of environmental sustainability. If you try to tackle injecting green efforts into everything from shipping solutions to facilities management on your own, you're likely to get lost in the weeds or coerced by a green-centric vendor with an eye on your overhaul budget.
Set firm limits for how many resources you can dedicate—both in outright discretionary budget and man-hours— to retrofitting facilities and workflow and stick to them. If you don't get everything accomplished that you'd like to, slate it for the next financial year.
Remember That Your Image is a Product
In a recent piece for Inbound Logistics, writer Joseph O'Reilly quotes industrialist Henry Ford: "A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business."
Consumers aren't swayed by price and carefully-crafted advertising alone anymore; social media has made purchasing anything a public event that invites the scrutiny of family and friends along for the ride. That means that if you're falling short of creating or effectively touting your lean, green supply chain efforts—subtly, of course, because self-promotion can be a turn-off as well—you're risking not only your base consumer's loyalty, but that of their social reach as well.
This also means that a short, loud sprint of earth-supporting effort is a poor substitute for the long haul of true eco-friendly focus. Your customers will know the difference, so make sure your sustainability is, well, sustainable. Much like building a business, you can't go green overnight, so be prepared to put in the required work to reap the status benefits.
Going green is a huge, sustainable step in the right direction, especially when it comes to courting customer favor and social media reach. You'll still need to approach the subject with caution and avoid hasty decisions that could leave you scrambling for shipping solutions, but lean and green can and do play well together. All you need to do is make sure the introduction goes smoothly!