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The Value of a Zero Waste Supply Chain
Companies are slowly beginning to reclaim the responsibility of reducing waste, starting with their supply chain.
The Value of a Zero Waste Supply Chain
Companies are slowly beginning to reclaim the responsibility of reducing waste, starting with their supply chain.
October 17, 2019
or centuries companies and large corporations have been putting all of their waste responsibilities onto the consumer. Consumers are left with one-use plastics and large amounts of packaging that are then thrown into our landfills and oceans. As we are becoming more aware of the damage this creates for our environment and our future generations, companies are slowly beginning to realize the value of a zero waste supply chain.

An Infinite Supply Chain
A zero waste supply chain takes the focus away from the linear supply process, and integrates a circular, infinite supply chain. It takes into consideration the reduce-reuse-recycle process with a heavy emphasis on reducing. Companies are beginning to focus their sustainability efforts on the start of their supply chain and each step in between before it creates waste in the end. Any waste that is created through the end product is then repurposed back into the supply chain to be reused throughout the production process. This takes the responsibility away from the consumer and puts it back on to those who are creating the waste.

Developing a Circular Mindset
A zero waste supply chain was once thought of as an unattainable idea. It was believed that this concept was only possible for environmentalist or small farms. But more and more we are seeing that a zero waste supply chain is possible for any corporation to achieve.

There are a few ways we can develop a circular supply chain mindset:

  1. Mindset: In order to create a zero waste supply chain, everyone needs to be on board. This starts with leadership emphasizing a sustainable mindset. Change should be embraced and sought after instead of pushed to the side. The zero waste conversation needs to be demonstrated and positively represented throughout all levels of the corporation beginning with the leadership.

  2. Design: Zero waste efforts begin at the design process. Focus on the details of each step of the supply chain to reduce waste across all steps in the process. Consider the environmental impact of raw materials, resources, and packaging. This is the “reduce” step. Think, where does each and every resource that I use end up? Can we reduce the resources necessary to create the product?

  3. Reuse: All waste can be used as a resource. We need to eliminate the mindset that once waste is created, it no longer serves a purpose to the supply chain. In fact, companies are realizing the exact opposite: all waste has value. Question how each resource can be repurposed and used again. This is truly taking advantage of the infinite, circular supply chain model.

  4. Recycle: There will be resources left that cannot be eliminated completely, or repurposed within the supply chain. This is where recycling comes in. When these resources, or waste, are properly recycled, we avoid sending items to the landfill and oceans. Recycling is not only helping to create a greater purpose for the waste, but it is avoiding the detrimental effects waste can bring to our earth.

Will the Benefits Outweigh the Costs?
When it comes down to it, I understand that a business’s main focus will be on generating revenue. Re-constructing your supply chain sounds like it can take lots of time and money. But, what if I told you that creating a zero waste supply chain has multiple benefits that outweigh these costs?

  1. Saving on Costs: It only makes sense that if you are targeting bottle necks and inefficiencies as well as saving materials and input costs in order to reduce your waste, you will end up saving money. Unilever was able to realize a cost benefit of $227 million when moving towards zero waste. What a save!

  2. Creating Sales: Zero waste supply chains not only save on costs, but create revenue as well. According to the 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability report, in the past year, sales from brands who demonstrate their efforts towards sustainability have grown more than 4 percent globally. Those who do not have grew less than 1 percent.

  3. Efficiency: When considering a zero waste supply chain, each step within the process needs to be analyzed in order to consider where the recourses at that step are ending up. One also takes into consideration the inefficiencies at that step and what can be improved. As you transform each area of your supply chain into zero waste, you are also transforming it into an efficient supply chain.

  4. Reputation: Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to the world. Younger generations want to make more mindful and environmentally friendly purchases. They want to stand with companies that share their values. According to a study including 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, 66 percent of those consumers said they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. For millennials this number increases to 73 percent. This holds true across all income levels, categories, and regions. Reputation is key to obtaining and retaining customers, especially for newer generations to come.

A zero waste supply chain is attainable for all. It is not only necessary for saving the environment, but becoming increasingly important in the eyes of consumers. If corporations want to appeal to the future consumers of the world, they will need to move towards zero waste. Looking forward, more and more companies will surely begin to recognize and embrace this mindset.


Jody Landis
Marketing Intern ~ ConnectShip
Jody Landis attends Penn State University where she will be graduating with a degree in Supply Chain Information Systems in May of 2020. She is also pursuing minors in two areas of great interest – International Business and Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Jody is living in Atlanta, Georgia for the summer where she has joined ConnectShip as a Marketing Intern through her position with UPS in Global Customer Solutions. In her free time, Jody loves to spend her time exploring the outdoors, traveling, playing her Ukulele, and creating crochet tops.