In addition to the pressure on electronics manufacturers to maximize margins, remain agile, and improve lean inventory management, there are simultaneous demands to improve sustainability through green initiatives that couple environmental awareness and responsibility with market and financial success.
The opportunity for new, creative solutions to maximize traditional business goals, increase profitability, and improve environmental sustainability has been promising. Understanding that green initiatives are an essential component in today's market evaluation of companies is critical to understanding the importance of green as a meaningful differentiator that can improve profitability when embraced at a corporate level and adopted throughout the organization. Requiring sustainability management of suppliers can save logistics costs, ease increasingly complex regulatory compliance, and increase market share when purchasers positively evaluate the adoption of comprehensive and meaningful sustainability goals.
Sustainability management refers to the strategies, technologies, and risk management procedures to improve business and customer relations while reducing costs, improving profitability, and implementing environmental stewardship goals. It is a win-win approach requiring visibility and collaboration along the supply chain. Many companies have green initiatives, but for these to succeed and ring true, it is imperative that suppliers also meet and embody these corporate green strategies. Today, green stewardship, corporate reputation, and positive network relationships are increasingly combined as market differentiators.
One outcome of sustainability management is increased visibility along the supply chain to ensure adherence to green initiatives while collaborating more closely on unique needs and ever-shifting market positions. This relationship change resulted from both the increase in outsourcing as companies maximize resources and control costs and the need to leverage the special positions and insights that supply chain partners have.
A new type of accountability is on the rise: environmental awareness and responsibility in both the production and end of life (EOL) handling of electronics. In response, major OEMs continue to improve their green initiatives, including Dell, Samsung, Panasonic, and Apple, to name a few. In turn, OEMs have required of partners increasing adherence to environmentally responsible practices, which trickles down to include more of the electronics supply chain. Many suppliers and distributors have chosen to lead their sectors in sustainability management.
Among the revenue opportunities from thorough supply chain sustainability governance is disposition of excess and EOL product. Both law makers and consumers demand safe EOL product handling, resulting in greater demand for environmentally sound reverse logistics practices, e.g., asset disposition, repurposing, and zero-landfill waste methods. To ensure safe, proper, and responsible asset disposition — in addition to ROI — due diligence along the supply chain is required.
Profitability and environmental stewardship coexist in successful sustainability management programs. Seen as both risk management and a business ecosystem, today's electronic supply chain is growing in many shades of green, all of which support positive business growth through strong collaboration, visibility, and shared environmentally aware goals and responsibilities.
(I'd recommend the recent whitepaper from CA Technologies for a good discussion of sustainability management.)