5 Ways Data Can Optimise a Sustainable Supply Chain

What do you remember about 2013? If you look back at some of the news headlines, you’ll recall that it was a pretty ugly 12 months for supply chain management. From Rana Plaza to the horsemeat scandal, non-compliance, low engagement or simple a lack of supplier information lead to disasters that burned huge holes in the pockets of global corporations.

In a world where supply chains can be extensive, monitoring and ensuring due diligence is no easy task. But the risks, as we have certainly witnessed in recent years, are tenfold. Whether it’s a plummet in share price, brand reputation taking a hit, or forking out millions to help disaster victims, taking the reigns on your supply chain is simply good business.

Incidents of supply chain upheaval are only going to grow in the face of resource challenges, such as water scarcity and soil degradation, and the negative effects of climate change, such as extreme weather.

Thankfully, there are technology platforms and tools that can help make this more efficient, providing an overview, identifying the areas that need your attention and automating processes so that you have the accurate information to create an effective and resilient supply chain.

Curious? Here are five ways that data can help you make informed decisions.

1. Identifying risky suppliers
It’s hard to discuss risk management in supply chains without bringing up the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which killed over 1,100 people. It’s no secret that conditions for workers in Bangladesh are poor. So, how could data help manage risks of this kind?

In lengthy supply chains, simple tasks like information collection can seem like a mammoth operation. Automating this process can pare down that time-consuming administration of carrying out code of conduct surveys, for example. With technology like the cr360 Supply Chain solution, you simply invite suppliers to respond to questionnaires, and automated emails and summary dashboards follow up with required actions, so you can dedicate more time to engagement or considering alternatives.

2. Enabling collaboration
Most companies don’t believe they are located in water stressed areas – that’s according to a Sedex self-assessment questionnaire. But the Sedex/WWF water risk briefing finds that non-compliance is actually down to a lack of supplier understanding of relevant laws and regulations. Data can help identify suppliers with water stress problems, and work with them to improve efficiency.

But where do you start? With software like the cr360 Supply Chain solution, you can communicate with suppliers and share updates in a ‘chat room’ environment. This encourages collaboration, tracks progress on issues like water management and you can access all supplier records at the touch of a button.

3. Making auditing easy
Many supermarkets would rather like to forget the horsemeat scandal – the discovery that some of their beef products were not made with meat from the animal they thought.Whatever the cause – buying food below the market price or failing to check products properly – food crime is a big risk in the supply chain. One of the antidotes to this is auditing, particularly the unannounced kind. Technology can be used to conduct audits (or invite third parties to do so), such as on cr360’s designated module. Observations and non-compliances (including images) can be captured on site, even when offline. Then it can synchronise with existing audit data on the system as soon as the auditor’s device is back online.

4. Measuring and anticipating your carbon footprint
Transitioning to a low carbon economy means reducing carbon emissions not only from your direct operations, but that of your supply chain too. Of course, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, but monitoring scope 3 emissions – i.e. from the goods that you purchase – can seem like a daunting task when you procure a large inventory of products.

Luckily, tools like the Value Chain Manager module, developed by cr360 in partnership with the Carbon Trust, helps you determine the carbon footprint of each product type and calculate your carbon emissions per pound spent. Better yet, you can eventually use the software to anticipate what the carbon footprint of future purchases might be, and make informed decisions.

5. Ensuring sustainable sourcing
Despite the wealth of commitments from global businesses, palm oil is still high on the agenda for many charities. Only last month, Greenpeace activists closed off access for all imports and exports from palm oil trader IOI, whose practices have caused fires, forest destruction and human rights abuses. Ensuring that your raw materials are sound – whether it is indeed palm oil, timber or gold – can help avoid such events disrupting supply. But tracing your supplies right back to extraction and sourcing is not so easy.

Developed with the Rainforest Alliance, SmartSource360 enables you to do just that, checking performance against Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sourcing criteria. If any risky hot spots are identified, then you have the opportunity to work with suppliers to resolve any issues.