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Power to the Buyer: Building a Social Conscience

Politics has entered the supply chain. Changes in immigration, regulations, taxes and the increasing vilification of a well established global supply chain has us all on edge. Hopefully, these hot button issues will soon get clarification and we can resume the complex tasks of managing our increasingly complex supply chains. Supply chain risk is running rampant.

Still, I think we need to look at the green supply chain for a bit. No matter the regulatory environment, it is critical for buyers and sellers alike to continue to support a supply chain strategy that offers a chance at sustainability, economic stewardship and social engagement. We as a profession have a social obligation to maintain the progress we’ve made as a society.

Let’s look at the sell side. Environmental regulations in many industries are under attack and being rolled back due to a perceived burden on a company or an industry. Some companies may take advantage of those rollbacks, but others may not. That is where the marketing department of the greener suppliers comes in with messaging addressing their environmental stewardship. Perhaps those attributes are what separate them from their competition. Buyers need to look under the hood.

An example is the egg market. One can buy eggs produced from factory farms, eggs from free –range chickens, organic eggs, and engineered eggs with the addition of certain vitamins. Consumers can buy eggs at a local mega-mart, at a specialty store, at a farmer’s market, and even from a neighbor with a chicken coop. The consumer has lots of choices based on cost, location, supplier relationships, flavor profiles, and yes, social conscious. It is not one-size fits all…there are many sizes and styles from which to choose. The same goes for the products and services that you buy as part of the global electronics supply chain.

Now, let’s look at the buy side. It is no secret that cost reduction continues to be the number one pressure facing supply management professionals. While that certainly has a roll in source selection, it needn’t be the only one. Buyers have the opportunity to shop with a social conscious, paying heed to both cost pressures and the social contract. It is a power that is often unrecognized, underutilized, and marginalized. It can’t be any longer.  

Take the farmer’s market approach. If you don’t buy factory produced eggs for your home, think about not buying products or services from factories that take advantage of those regulatory rollbacks…keeping in mind that those advantages will most likely result in better margins rather than lower prices. Look to those suppliers that support your sustainability interests. Look to historically underutilized business (HUB) suppliers and other small businesses. Be upfront with all suppliers about the importance of the green supply chain. Take action within your own company to promote green practices and good corporate citizenship. 

Use your power.

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