Sustainability: Start small, stay focused, keep going

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Like many things, transitioning your supply chain to be sustainable is not easy.  Looking at all your products, your suppliers, your infrastructure, and your distribution network can quickly become overwhelming. Where do you start? How do we pay for it all? How do we keep delivering to customers while we do all this? These are all good questions. However, the sustainability train is moving and as I’ve pointed out before, you need to be on-board. In a recent post,  Dave Meyer compared the effort to become sustainable to his efforts to learn the guitar. His approach? Start small – stay focused – keep going. By starting small (in his case, he started with a three string guitar), he was able to learn, yet not be overwhelmed. You need to keep focused. Learning something new (like the guitar or sustainability) won’t happen overnight. You will make mistake and you will go need to go back and fix thing but you will get there. Finally, you will achieve some success.  Don’t stop there, keep going. Tackle the next issue. In his post, Dave suggests starting with a plan (always a good idea!).  He describes two alternatives.

1)      A systematic framework like the ISO14001 Environment Management System

2)      A Plan-Do-Check-Act Deming wheel approach to continuous improvement.

The Continuous improvement approach might be more manageable, especially for small/medium businesses. It involves seven iterative steps to sustainability. Dave lists them in his post: Prepare (Plan)

1. Map your impact, set priorities and build the team.

2. Select useful performance indicators and associated data.

Measure (Do)

3. Measure the inputs used in production (primarily materials and components).

4. Assess the impact and efficiency of your facility.

5. Evaluate your products.  Determine how they perform in terms of energy (resource) consumption.

Improve (Check/Act)

6 .Understand measured results.

7. Take action to improve performance.

The trick with continuous improvement activities is that you go through a cycle like this and gain a small improvement. Once that improvement has become internalized, you start the cycle over again. I’ll use a different analogy then Dave did (and unfortunately one that hits closer to home…). If you want to lose weight, setting a target of losing 50 pounds next week is unrealistic and will likely result in frustration and disappointment…and could be very unhealthy. However, setting a target of losing two pounds next week, and two pounds each week thereafter is far more manageable much more likely to be successful. What is your sustainability approach?  Comment back and let us know.

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