In recent weeks the local conversation about environmental practices, and indeed the behaviour of individuals and businesses alike when it comes to sustainability have been making headlines. The City of Johannesburg announced a new programme compelling residents to separate waste at source as of 1 July to not only curb the environmental impact within the city but also to manage rapidly decreasing landfill space. On World Plastics day, retail giant PicknPay trialled a programme within their V&A Waterfront store that saw the replacement of all plastic bags with compostable bags and boxes, kick-starting their intention to implement this more broadly in the years to come. With local changes such as these, the research recently conducted by supply chain organisation Barloworld Logistics could not be more relevant to South African businesses, and consumers alike.
Now in its 15th year, supplychainforesight is an industry standard in qualitative research and a critical thought leadership piece on business strategy and supply chains in South Africa. The latest edition reviews the opinions of South African business leaders regarding the adoption of sustainable business practices within the Supply Chain, and business in general, to create a snapshot of the state of green Supply Chains in South Africa and to garner insight into the psyche of local Supply Chain leaders when it comes to environmental practices.
“This year’s research may be topical at the moment, but the adoption of sustainable business practices is far more than a conversation piece or marketing slogan”, says Sarah Lubbe, Senior Marketing and PR Manager at Barloworld Logistics. “There is an urgent need, driven by both environmental awareness and consumer demand, to place real strategic weight behind the sustainability agenda to make any real strides, whether it is within local business, or on a global scale.”
Not unexpectedly, the research found that as many as two-thirds of respondents have adopted some environmental policy within their organisations, but that such practices are still considered to be tick-box exercises driven by compliance requirements, and not real value creating activities. Respondents also highlighted a lack of resources and subdued C-suite support as the main hurdles when attempting to move the topic into the operational DNA of an organisation.
“The lingering opinion that environmental practices are a grudge cost within local organisations is a short-sighted view”, argues Lubbe. “There is mainstream, empirical evidence to show that our natural resources require urgent care and attention. Added to this, is a growing change in consumer behaviour to emphasising the ethical nature of products, in some cases even above price considerations. These factors create a need to examine every aspect of a products value chain should organisations want to retain, or grow market share over the long-term.”
According to Lubbe the latest supplychainforesight data indicates that local businesses are indeed adopting tactical waste management and emissions programmes, but that these are reactive at best. She explains that respondents reported low adoption of sustainable practices within research and development, manufacturing and raw material sourcing. Lubbe went on to say that if the footprint of a product is not mitigated at the start, the cost and waste burden of these at their end-of-life will continue to hamper the local public and private sectors alike, as well as individuals and the natural environment.
“This supplychainforesight should be food for thought for everyone, both personally and professionally. If we continue to produce, use and discard products in the way we always have, even if this is in an environmentally acceptable way, we will soon face the reality of a world drowning in its own waste, where raw materials have run out, and our lives changed forever.” states Lubbe. “It is no longer good enough to have a policy over the door, or a statement on a website, that claims green behaviour. We all need to review our products, our supply chains, our suppliers, indeed every step within the lifespan of a product, to make sure that it treads softly, moves cleanly and leaves little trace behind. Only through coordinated, committed action will we be able to be the companies, the industries and the people who leave a better legacy than we inherited”.
Download supplychainforesight “The Green Revolution” to learn more about the topic and results.