Inside Supply Management Magazine

March/April 2022


March 01, 2022
By Brittney Bieneman

Sustainability Program Building for Beginners

Sustainable business is becoming increasingly important. In recent years, an unprecedented increase in natural disaster frequency and severity, linked to climate change, has upended supply chains. This, among other factors, has caused raw material prices to soar.

Not coincidentally, environment, social and governance (ESG) investments were one of the hottest trends in 2021, with an influx of US$120 billion, according to Bloomberg News. So, where is the best place to start for your company’s sustainability efforts?

Sustainability priorities of consumers and investors add pressure to businesses to make changes, but successful execution requires a paradigm shift in how we think about the relationship between sustainability and business. The classic perspective that sustainability and business are adversaries is not true.

One of the first areas explored in sustainable business was waste. Mikel Harry and Bill Smith, the founders of Six Sigma, showed in the 1980s that eliminating waste and increasing efficiency is one of the best ways to improve business profitability. Streamlining operations and reducing raw material, energy and water inputs are sound opening plays, but such initiatives shouldn’t be the entire sustainability game plan.

A more advanced approach starts with a company’s brand, with development of a strategy linked to the business purpose. A sustainability pursuit cannot be at the expense of the business model and core competencies. 

In building a sustainability strategy, supply management professionals should ask these key questions: What will help create a positive feedback loop between business success and an increased sustainability outcome? In what areas does the organization need to invest or divest? What is the perception of the business among customers and consumers?

Start by focusing on issues your business is best positioned to impact. Working in concert with customer and consumer perspectives is the easiest first step to build value through sustainability. 

Starting a business sustainability program can be daunting, but that shouldn’t discourage practitioners. If an office recycling program is the right first step, do it — and build from there.

About the Author

Brittney Bieneman

category manager
Ball Corporation

About the Author

Brittney Bieneman is a category manager at Ball Corporation in Westminster, Colorado. She is a member of Institute for Supply Management®’s (ISM®) Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Ethics Committee.