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While the worst of the pandemic may be behind us (at least for now…), supply chains continue to grapple with a host of disruptions cutting across various industries. Global conflicts, geopolitical uncertainties, rapid digital transformations, and evolving regulatory landscapes are placing unprecedented demands on organisations. However, if the tumultuous days of the pandemic taught us anything, it's the transformative power of strategic partnerships. Collaboration has emerged as a solid consistent, demonstrating how collective efforts can drive positive change amidst adversity.

But with so much focus on sustainability, collaborative partnerships look a little different these days. So what exactly is collaborative sustainability and why does it matter in 2024? Research by IBM indicates that only 38% of businesses currently calculate their supply chain footprint and, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 90% of an organisation's greenhouse gas emissions, and 50% to 70% of operating costs, are attributable to supply chains. 

Lee Thompson


We asked Lee Thompson, CEO at fulfilmentcrowd and all-round shipping and supply chain aficionado,
what his thoughts were.


Collaborative sustainability: what does it mean and why does it matter?

Joining forces with stakeholders, like suppliers, customers, and NGOs (non-governmental organisations), to tackle environmental and social challenges across their supply chains is a pivotal approach for us, allowing us to leverage collective expertise and resources. By teaming up with diverse partners, we can tap into a wealth of knowledge and innovative solutions that go beyond our individual capabilities.

“One of the key advantages is the ability to scale impact. Collaborative sustainability lets us make a bigger impact beyond our own sector. When we work together, we tackle big challenges and drive real change across entire supply chains. This teamwork also makes us stronger by diversifying where we get our supplies from and helping us handle risks better, especially in today's uncertain world.

“It also enhances reputations, building trust with customers who increasingly demand ethical practices. Not only this, it also facilitates regulatory compliance, opening doors to new markets and opportunities that prioritise sustainability. Pooling resources through partnerships can lead to cost savings and operational efficiencies, such as joint investments in renewable energy or waste reduction programs.

“For fulfilmentcrowd, our entire model is sustainable by design. Creating warehousing capacity isn't just about constructing new facilities. We recognise the immense potential of existing warehouses worldwide, where hundreds of millions of square feet remain underutilised. Our approach is to leverage this available space, maximising efficiency and sustainability by making the most of what's already in place.

“Many of our warehouse partners are established online retailers in their own right, boasting decades of experience in logistics and operations. By aligning with these seasoned experts, we not only max space utilisation, but also add unique service capabilities to meet evolving demands in the shipping and eCommerce landscape.

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What about the role of technology in collaborative sustainability?

Lee continues: “Technology serves as a catalyst for innovation and efficiency, enabling businesses to enhance their environmental and social contribution through strategic partnerships and collective action.

“One key aspect is data transparency and sharing. Advanced technologies facilitate secure data exchange among supply chain partners, creating that trust and accountability. This transparency is crucial for verifying sustainable practices, ensuring compliance with ethical standards, and enabling effective decision-making.

“Technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) enable real-time monitoring of supply chain operations and environmental conditions. This data-driven approach enhances visibility and control, optimising resource utilisation and minimising waste.

“Collaborative platforms and digital marketplaces powered by technology connect businesses with like-minded partners and solution providers worldwide. These platforms facilitate resource-sharing, joint initiatives, and the discovery of sustainable solutions. Our global operating system is just one example of this.

Our operating system represents a cutting-edge approach to global fulfilment, offering scalability, robustness, and a rich set of features that redefine efficiency in supply chain management. By leveraging technology, we enable our partners to achieve their sustainability goals by streamlining processes, minimising waste, and maximising resource utilisation throughout the fulfilment journey.

“It also allows you to track progress towards your sustainability goals, as well as improve your data collection process.

“For one client, we’ve implemented a sophisticated forecasting suite that enables forward-prediction of activity and customer demand at a granular product level. This empowers brands to optimise inventory planning, enhance operational efficiency, and, most importantly to the client, reduce waste within their supply chain.”

“Additionally, we’ve implemented a consumer self-service platform, along with consolidation-at-hub capabilities. This platform allows brands’ customers to interact directly with their services, enhancing convenience and transparency in the ordering process. This means better customer experiences - and ultimately, reducing carbon emissions that are associated with multiple deliveries.”


Why should a sustainability improvement plan start with the supply chain?

According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, shifting to a circular economy model in the supply chain could unlock $4.5 trillion in economic growth by 2030. So a good place to start your sustainability improvement plan is the supply chain. Lee adds:

Circular economy initiatives have a profound impact on supply chains. They help drive the adoption of innovative business models, such as product-as-a-service and sharing platforms. These models prioritise access over ownership and incentivise product longevity and reuse. Collaborating with stakeholders to redesign supply chain networks and distribution channels only works to support these new business paradigms.

“Embracing circular economy principles empowers supply chains to transition towards more sustainable and resilient business models, all whilst driving positive environmental and social outcomes.”


Final thoughts

Of course, all supply chains, no matter how resilient, have some element of vulnerability. We can’t always predict what will happen next, especially when it comes to unexpected events, such as the pandemic.

Undoubtedly, supply chains, no matter how resilient, are inherently vulnerable to disruptions. Despite our best efforts in risk management and contingency planning, we cannot always predict or fully prepare for unexpected events, such as the unprecedented challenges brought by the global pandemic.

“The key to building resilient supply chains lies in embracing flexibility, agility, and collaborative approaches. By building those strong partnerships and integrating sustainability practices, organisations can enhance their ability to adapt and respond effectively to unforeseen disruptions. Collaborative sustainability initiatives not only mitigate risks, but also foster innovation and shared responsibility across supply chain networks.

“The economy is complex. The world is complex! But it’s navigating those complexities that build our resilience as organisations. By applying tech-based solutions, creating strong and agile partnerships and embracing circular economy principles, we can build supply chains that are better equipped to withstand shocks and drive positive change in the face of uncertainty.

“Ultimately, the journey towards resilient and sustainable supply chains is ongoing and requires collective action. Supply chain collaborative innovation, including sustainable collaboration, is a critical strategy for organisations to help navigate unpredictable market dynamics. It serves as the primary driver for enhancing supply chain flexibility and sustainable performance, all whilst enabling the development of new or enhanced products and services."

If you’re looking to ramp up your social impact and sustainability efforts, without sacrificing speed and efficiency, join us at fulfilmentcrowd. Let’s collaborate to drive positive change in your supply chain and redefine what it means to be a responsible and purpose-driven brand. Get in touch with us today to explore how our innovative solutions can help you achieve your sustainability goals, all whilst delivering exceptional service to your customers.

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