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Environmental Impact, Green Tech, and the Supply Chain

We’re feeling the impact of climate change around the globe. From wildfires in Australia, the US, and South America, to flooding in Europe and China, changing weather patterns are upending communities and destroying lives. The supply chain is partly to blame—extraction, manufacturing, transport, distribution, and other supply chain functions all have a significant global impact.

The difficulty that international supply chains are a backbone to the global economy—how do we balance this vital growth engine with the need to reduce carbon emissions and weather catastrophes? We believe part of the solution is through using green technology in the supply chain. These technologies can help to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, protect vulnerable environments, save energy, and limit pollution.

We Must Take Global Action to Slow Climate Change

The frequency of climate emergencies is increasing, with flooding, wildfires, heatwaves, and other catastrophic weather events having a huge impact. The latest IPCC report on climate change paints a grim picture—temperatures are going to continue increasing for at least the next 30 years. If we want to limit warming to the lower end of the climate emergency scale, we need to act, and we need to act now.


To avoid runaway climate change and cascading “tipping points,” we must cut emissions to net-zero by 2050 and by around 45% by 2030. The supply chain has a big part to play.


The Impact of the Supply Chain on Climate Change

We’ve previously explored some techniques for reducing carbon emissions in the supply chain


“The typical consumer company’s supply chain creates far greater social and environmental costs than its own operations, accounting for more than 80 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions and more than 90 percent of the impact on air, land, water, biodiversity, and geological resources.” — McKinsey: Starting at the source: Sustainability in supply chains.


Although carbon emissions are a major issue, other supply chain activities can also have a major environmental impact:

  • Air pollution from raw material extraction, manufacturing, and transportation.
  • Ocean pollution from runoff into rivers and streams and directly from ocean freight.
  • Deforestation from harvesting wood, clearing land, and building facilities.
  • Biodiversity loss from destroying natural habitats, changes in land use, and localized extraction and pollution.
  • Water and resource shortages from extraction and manufacturing.
  • Environmental damage from harvesting and making materials for packaging.


“First, their operating practices and supply chains have sizable effects on the environment. If the CPG sector were a country, its carbon dioxide emissions would be second only to those of China. The metals sector expels an estimated 300 million tons of toxic waste in rivers and streams each year. Fertilizers and other products produced by the chemicals sector are associated with a 30% reduction in biodiversity when found in the soil.”—BGC, Your Supply Chain Needs a Sustainability Strategy  

How Green Technology Can Build a More Sustainable Supply Chain

We can define “Green Tech” as a type of technology that:

  • Uses science and object measures to create processes, services, and products that are more environmentally friendly than traditional methods.
  • Protects the environment, or, in some cases, repairs and reverses past environmental damage.
  • Conserves and protects the Earth’s natural resources.


From a supply chain perspective, this means:

  • Extracting and sourcing raw materials in an ethical, low-impact way.
  • Manufacturing parts and products using facilities and methods that limit emissions and environmental damage.
  • Using alternative, more environmentally friendly materials in the sourcing and manufacturing processes.
  • Moving goods in low-emission transportation.
  • Using clean and renewable energy to power sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, storage, and distribution.
  • Allowing for deep tracking and analysis of supply chain environmental impacts.
  • Driving programs, projects, and corrective actions to limit emissions and impact.
  • Implementing green certification, policies, and processes through every part of the supply chain.
  • Developing sustainable, green packaging alternatives.

Let’s explore some practical ways that you can take advantage of green supply chain technologies to improve your sustainability.


Introducing Green Technology into Your Supply Chain

Every business’s approach to green supply chain technology will be different. Logistics providers might want to focus on green transportation, while manufacturers utilize clean energy, and supply chain managers track overall emissions.

Just like the supply chain itself, all of these technologies are deeply linked together. There’s no single green technology that will make a massive difference on its own. Instead, it’s about driving smart sustainability through collaboration. This needs to happen whenever and wherever we can, with the net combined benefit being less environmental damage. Here are ten ways you can make a difference.


Seek Out Low-Impact Materials for Manufacturing

Investigate whether your products can be manufactured from more environmentally friendly materials. For example, bamboo is an easily replaceable, fast-growing resource that can be used as a basis for many wood and natural products.


Understand Emissions by Transportation Mode and Plan Accordingly

Understand the emissions and other environmental damage caused through each transportation mode you use—ocean, rail, road, or air. Create logistics and transportation models focused on reducing the environmental impact as much as possible. 


Optimize Supply Chain Locations, Fleets, Routes, and Distribution and Track Vehicles

Use AI-powered routing software combined with IoT tracking devices to optimize how goods move through the supply chain network. Combine this with optimal supply chain network locations to reduce the distance goods need to travel.


Move to Clean Energy Alternatives and Lower Emissions Vehicles 

Source energy from renewable power such as solar, tide, or wind. Explore lower emission vehicles for logistics—moving to electric-powered trucks or natural gas-powered vehicles. 


Establish Strong Environmental Policies, Procedures, and Measures

Review industry best practices and sustainability frameworks to identify where you can make the most difference. Create a set of green policies and processes together with accurate KPIs and other measures to understand the benefits of these policies.


Compel and Track Third Parties to Follow Green Policies, Processes, and Guidelines

Once you have policies and processes in place, insist that supply chain partners adapt them as minimum standards. Build these requirements into the Service Level Agreements that you have with third parties. Integrate with data capture and reporting systems within your supply chain partners to ensure they are meeting your requirements.


Audit Sourcing, Supplier, and Manufacturing Processes for Emissions and Environmental Impact 

Use a supply chain audit tool to analyze every step in sourcing and manufacturing processes, including environmental impact and emissions. Track these processes over time to identify trends and drive improvements. 


Embrace Artificial Intelligence, and Forecasting

Implement AI forecasting to identify likely demand and supply patterns to allow for more efficient “Just in Time” manufacturing. Use warehouse and logistics automation to drive efficiencies and reduce waste in the supply chain.


Eliminate Unnecessary Packaging and Seek Out New Packaging Materials

Explore alternatives to traditional packaging, including reusable packaging, low-impact packing materials, and micro-supply chains. Investigate this more in our “Packaging Trends in Sustainable Supply Chains” guide.


Strengthen Re-use and Recycling as Part of a Circular Supply Chain

Build a stronger sense of reusing and recycling unwanted products and byproducts to limit new sourcing and manufacturing. Create greater visibility of available materials together with operational processes to feed them back into the manufacturing process.


There are dozens more green technologies and solutions you can customize to your supply chain circumstances. Whatever green technologies you choose, we can help.


How Topo Can Help You Introduce Green Technologies Into Your Supply Chain

The Topo platform is focused on helping you achieve your green supply chain environmental goals. We empower you to monitor, inspect, and analyze the different stages of your sourcing, product development, production, quality, and sustainability processes within your supply chain.


Some of the ways we can help include:

  • Ensuring that you and your supply chain partners can meet internal, external, national, and international standards and regulations.
  • Facilitating environmental and social audits throughout your supply chain, with a particular focus on sourcing and manufacturing.
  • Creating full data transparency and traceability and centralizing sustainability KPIs, measures, and reports in one place.
  • Focusing on areas like carbon emissions, water testing, air testing, packaging, and chemical management.
  • Tracking and tracing of raw materials and lab tests. 
  • Ensuring visibility into immediate supply chain partners and their dependencies including Tier Two and Tier Three suppliers.


We cover the entire journey of your products, from sourcing, product development, ordering, production to quality, chemical, and sustainability management. Our supply chain platform digitally transforms your business— regardless of your industry. Topo allows you to collaborate remotely, automate processes and analyze data within your supply chain in real-time to increase transparency and productivity while decreasing operational cost.

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