Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Introducing sustainable supply chains

In this video, we introduce the concept of supply chains and why they are so important.
Supply chains are an integral part of every business. They are around us and affect every aspect of our lives. Supply chains are networks between businesses, their suppliers and customers. They are used to distribute raw materials, in-process goods and final products, and to collect faulty, unsold and end-of-life items and wastes. But the activities across supply chains can have negative impacts on the environment, the economies and the societies that surround them. From sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, storing and delivering products to shops and customers, and collecting returns and wastes, businesses consume energy and pollute the environment. To make a supply chain sustainable we need to take a holistic approach and optimise every single stage. Procurement is the first stage in a supply chain.
Today, businesses are seeking to source affordable and reliable natural resources and energy supplies from all over the world; from Canada to Africa, from Asia to South America. But how can we ensure that the materials sourced are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way? How can we guarantee that the workers making them are safe and fairly treated? And, how can we protect the environment during the sourcing process? Can local sourcing and fairtrade practices ensure that local economies, societies and the environment are treated with care? All raw materials need to be transformed into finished products. And again, factories are spread all over the world.
But typical manufacturing processes consume too many resources, and utilise vast amounts of energy, produce greenhouse gases and generate wastes. How can we ensure that the production processes are designed and operated in a way that conserves energy and natural resources that are safe for workers, local communities and consumers and are economically sound? Can the adoption of lean manufacturing practices help businesses produce goods in a sustainable way? Warehousing is another critical stage of supply chains. It helps businesses store materials and products, and make them available when required, from the time of their sourcing, to the time of their usage. But how can we ensure that warehouses minimise their impacts on their surrounding environment?
That they limit the consumption of external power sources and the generation of greenhouse gases? And that they are safe and pleasant places for employees to work in, and for people to live around? Can the use of environmentally-friendly building materials, renewable forms of energy and the environmental certification of warehouses turn them into safe working places that operate efficiently and with the least possible impact on the environment? And what about transport? How do we move components and products across the supply chain, between raw material production locations, factories, warehouses, shops and customers? And think about all the vehicles running around to deliver the countless products ordered online.
Freight transport is a vital component of economies, but the dramatic rise and overuse of road transportation, especially with the growth of e-commerce, has resulted in increased levels of congestion, noise, pollution and environmental damage. So how can we shift to more environmentally-friendly modes of transport? How can we better utilise the load capacity of vehicles, and reduce empty running? And how can we reduce transport costs? Can technology help us use intermodal transportation more effectively and reduce its impacts? Can the use of alternative fuel types help us to reduce the level of greenhouse gases produced? Can we empty our streets of trucks and vans delivering products to shops and people, taking up valuable urban space, polluting our cities and disturbing our lives?
Can you imagine living in a green city where your products would be delivered to your doorstep by a drone? Or a robot? Or a guy riding a bike? Can we use new technologies and plan better last-mile logistics to improve our lives and protect the environment we live in? The use of traditional linear systems, where we make, consume and eventually dispose of end-of-life products, leads to the depletion of natural resources and the production of toxic wastes. How can we develop systems where we can make the most of the available resources and minimise emissions and waste outputs? Can we increase the reuse of items by extending or intensifying their lives through appropriate design to prevent them from becoming obsolete?
And, can we convert waste materials into new items? Could this adoption of ‘circular economy’ principles help us reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills? Green logistics is an exciting new approach to producing and distributing goods. This online module will show you how we can design sustainable supply chains and develop green logistics strategies.

In this video, we introduce the concept of supply chains and why they are so important.

The video goes on to look at the negative effects they can have on local economies, societies and the environment, and measures that have been proposed to improve the situation.

Your task

Which part of the video resonated the most for you?
Share your thoughts in the comments area.
This article is from the free online

Sustainability and Green Logistics: An Introduction

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now