Sustainable Supply Chains and Public Health: What’s the Connection?

Sustainable Supply Chains and Public Health: What’s the Connection?

By Indiana Lee

It is no secret that Earth’s climate is changing at a rapid rate. It doesn’t take too much looking around to realize that many scientific predictions regarding climate change and the future of our planet are coming true — many closer to worst-case-scenario predictions than we’d like to admit. Rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, more severe storms, less snow, more hotter-than-normal days, and increased risk of drought are just some of the problems we face. 

As a business leader, it can be hard to pinpoint your company’s role in contributing to climate change. It can be even harder to identify the negative impact your current business practices and supply chain may have on public health. However, now more than ever, there is a public demand for business leaders to closely examine their day-to-day activities and find ways to improve.

According to youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg, “global corporations must take a stand for the sake of public health, our environment, and our continued prosperous and healthy existence on this planet.” Climate change isn’t just the problem of one country or group of politicians; it is everyone’s issue.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of sustainable fixes out there. 

Credit: Lenny Kuhne.

A far-reaching problem

There are about a million and one ways that companies are contributing to public health crises associated with climate change somewhere in their supply chain, from chemical waste to air pollution. Take, for example, issues associated with single-use packaging for products, which accounts for roughly 40% of the plastics produced annually. Nearly 95% of these plastics — $120 billion annually — either are not recycled or cannot be recycled. 

Related Post: Future Design Series: Sustainable Food Packaging Alternatives to Plastic

Unfortunately, many wind up polluting our oceans and breaking down into microplastics that are consumed by fish — the primary food source for the majority of the world’s population. 

Plastic packaging contributing to food insecurity is just one example of the role companies play. They can also have an impact on deforestation and drought conditions. Pursuing the unsustainable production of certain goods (including, but not limited to, cotton, coffee, pineapple, and rubber) can lead desperate farmers in poor countries to destroy the one thing that is stabilizing their environment: forests

Forests play an outsized role in climate control and their removal can cause substantial swings in weather patterns as well as a greater likelihood of both flooding and drought, which can all completely change how easily food is produced. Issues such as these are turning climate health into a public health crisis, not just an energy crisis.

Changing the status quo

Obviously, the sustainability of a company’s supply chain can play a major role in public health and environmental conditions across the globe. Cutting down on plastic packaging is just one major way that companies can start thinking greener and have a profound impact on the health of the world. Greater, more impactful means of changing the supply chain for a greener outcome include auditing the supply chain, supporting raw material producers that keep eco-friendly practices in mind, building eco-centric office spaces, and working in renewable energy sources as much as possible. 

Fortunately, more and more companies are realizing the power of having a sustainable supply chain. Consumers are deeply interested in products that are produced in a more eco-conscious fashion, with over 60% of American consumers saying they want companies to step up in their sustainable efforts in the absence of government action. This type of conscious capitalism can have some very real benefits for businesses.  

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Beyond making most consumers happier about purchasing products, most companies are likely to realize long-term financial benefits from going green. With the help of progressive governments and private citizens, businesses that work towards sustainable practices, policies, and technologies could see upwards of $26 trillion in global economic benefits

A renewable future

Alternative energy companies have the potential to have an outsized role in helping other companies meet their sustainability goals going into the future. Renewable alternatives such as solar and wind have come a long way in affordability in recent decades and can now be considered a feasible alternative to the status quo. 

For small businesses, converting to solar may even be a great way to save money. According to Energy Sage market data, the average commercial property owner will pay over $500 monthly in electricity bills with traditional energy sources. By converting to solar, their bill could be lower than $100 per month. This switch not only saves money, but also helps the environment, lowers the number of supply chain links needed to run the business, and ultimately benefits the health of the public. 

Related Post: Ways to Introduce Sustainable Practices in the Corporate Workplace as a Low-Level Employee?

Others, such as Strategic Solar Sourcing, are making it more and more realistic for small- and medium-sized solar companies to reach clients. They do this by helping to manage supply chains and outsourcing services, which allows these mid-sized companies better pricing that can be passed on to consumers. Over all, this allows them to better compete with big corporations and help get more companies converted to renewables.

Supply chains impact public health far more than most people imagine. By making sustainable changes to companies and their supply chains, we can greatly benefit our health and the environment and could even offer companies a significant cost savings over time. Renewable energies such as solar can play a major role in helping businesses meet sustainability goals. 

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Feature image by Boxed Water via Unsplash.

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