Vigilance in dealing with vendors and suppliers is crucial to sustainability, says Jim Stock, University of South Florida professor, but the pandemic has interrupted inspections and other preventive measures.
If you want to implement sustainability in your operations, be aware that significant change is required in the way you do business, Stock says. But now is the time to do it, because COVID-19 already has forced firms into major change, both tactically and strategically.
Quite aside from the pandemic, other societal forces are mandating sustainable approaches. The post-Baby Boomer generations are much more interested in sustainability, and that impacts what they buy and from whom. At the same time, it provides valuable selling opportunities for companies attuned to those customers’ needs. In fact, Stock says, “They have to realize that sustainability is a unique selling proposition if they do it correctly.” That involves not just product development but how companies market and distribute their products. It also determines which vendors and suppliers to use.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to see sustainability as a profit center. But Stock says there’s a segment of consumers who will buy products, even at a higher price, if there’s a value proposition that justifies the additional expense. For instance, some are willing to pay more if a company is committed to hiring minorities or is seen to be friendly to the environment.
Vigilance is required to ensure that one’s suppliers practice sustainability. That’s especially true with new partners who don’t have a track record yet. However, the pandemic has made it difficult to check on them. Inspection visits to offshore suppliers and manufacturers have lagged because of travel bans and restrictions. Contract clauses and codes of conduct are only as good as their enforcement, but many site visits have been curtailed. That’s unfortunate, because company reputations rest on compliance.
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