Suppose the world’s population continues emitting carbon dioxide at the current rate. In that case, scientists estimate that the planet will warm to unsuitable levels within 20 years. Beyond what an individual can do to reduce carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency, companies pursuing carbon neutrality play a crucial role in the fight against climate change.

In particular, supply chain managers can use more sustainable and carbon-neutral technology to produce goods without putting additional strain on the planet.

The Role of the Supply Chain

A company is part of the supply chain if it plays a role in planning, implementing, or controlling the production and flow of goods and services to an end-user. Even software companies can be part of the global supply chain, working with companies overseas to share information and develop products for customers.

A supply chain company can achieve carbon neutrality by neutralizing the effects of its greenhouse gas emissions. The way to do so is to calculate carbon dioxide emissions and create a plan to become more energy-efficient to offset these emissions. However, supply chain managers cannot make these changes overnight. It’s essential, therefore, to understand how to create systems and develop tangible steps to reduce carbon footprint.

How Can Companies Reduce Carbon Footprint?

Tactics like recycling paper, using web-based communications, and reducing air travel will help a supply chain company achieve carbon neutrality. But a supply chain comprises many components, and a separate target must be established for each. Since some partners may only play a role in one step of the supply chain, it’s important to try reducing carbon emissions in each production area rather than outsourcing the carbon-intensive components to reduce the reports of baseline emissions.

The upstream supply chain is the most energy-intensive. Specifically, transportation is the second-highest emitter of greenhouse gases globally. So, ensuring that goods coming in via third-party sellers are being transported in an energy-efficient way⁠—by monitoring the vehicle and type of fuel used⁠—can help sustainability efforts.

Besides monitoring and renewable fuel, self-driving vehicles can reduce carbon emissions. A technology-minded supply chain manager may choose such carbon-neutral investments and determine the appropriate budget and resources to invest in developing new technologies. They can hire engineers and data scientists with a background in machine learning to improve functionality.

New software applications allow supply chain managers to view all aspects of the value chain in the same place and better understand any bottlenecks. If a manager has advanced supply chain visibility, they can make more informed decisions about how to improve. Finding more energy efficient ways to receive and transport goods and store them can play a significant role in reducing carbon footprint.

Understanding technology and data will be a crucial aspect of supply chain management for years to come. A leader with a strong background in technology and innovation will benefit any supply chain company, helping achieve business objectives while increasing customer satisfaction and cost savings. At the same time, these investments can help reduce carbon footprint as sustainability becomes essential for governments worldwide.

Data and Technology: Building a Sustainable Supply Chain

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science can play a significant role in helping businesses reduce their carbon footprint. Utilizing carbon-neutral technology, such as integrating information management into sustainability efforts, has been cited as a key way to reduce emissions. These technologies, and the data they collect, may also help monitor progress⁠. New technologies such as 3D printing could help companies become more energy efficient by removing the need for surplus inventory. Having an executive who is aware of which technologies reduce carbon footprint, as well as how to hire a team capable of implementing these technologies, is critical in the battle against climate change.

Supply chains comprise various nodes and links between sources. Using machine learning models for efficient routing can help a company transport its goods more cheaply and with a lower carbon footprint. A knowledge of what AI and machine learning options exist for this purpose can benefit any supply chain manager seeking to achieve carbon neutrality for their organization.

Companies Reducing Carbon Footprint

Amazon recently agreed to disclose its carbon footprint, stating its goal is to have 50% of its deliveries achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. A large retailer committing to transparency and carbon footprint reduction is critical for showing smaller companies that change is possible.

Starbucks also analyzed its supply chain to cut carbon emissions. The company broke its supply chain into the cultivation/processing stage, the roasting/packaging stage, and the consumption stage, looking to the most carbon-intensive component (consumption) and focusing its efforts there. Starbucks has also invested in energy-efficient technologies such as Green-E certified Renewable Energy Certificates to reduce emissions and decrease carbon footprint.

Levi Strauss & Co. recently rolled out a plan to reduce carbon emissions in its supply chain by 40% by 2025. The plan includes a strategy to switch to 100% renewable energy in facilities. For Levi to reduce its supply chain emissions, however, it must work with third-party suppliers⁠—a key component to reducing carbon footprint in the supply chain. For example, cotton growers account for 10% of Levi’s carbon emissions, so working with more energy-efficient suppliers or helping existing suppliers cut their emissions will make the company more sustainable.

Large companies must take a stance on reducing carbon emissions. Smaller companies often don’t have the budget or staff to do so. Larger companies have money to invest in researching these technologies and determining how to employ them best. But smaller companies can learn from the plans of larger organizations. The importance of carbon neutrality and sustainability will alter supply chain management in the coming decade as the world fights climate change. Supply chain managers can use data to cut down on resources, which could have a robust environmental impact while increasing customer satisfaction. Not only will this benefit the environment and customers, but it will also save money for the organization.

Furthermore, as Amazon demonstrated, the importance of transparency cannot be understated⁠: companies and consumers of products need to be aware of how specific organizations are working to reduce their carbon footprint and how well they’re executing. The consumer can spend their money with a carbon-zero company or a company approaching that goal rather than an organization taking fewer steps towards becoming carbon-neutral. Large companies lead the way in transparency efforts and can work to ensure that it becomes a global priority.

How a Master’s in Supply Chain Management From UT Prepares Supply Chain Managers to Build a More Sustainable Future

Executive support is critical in ensuring a company adopts green policies to achieve carbon neutrality and energy efficiency. The University of Tennessee’s Master’s in Supply Chain Management Online trains its students to become leaders in the supply chain field.

As environmentally conscious managers, they can make a difference by employing sustainable tools, implementing new systems, and understanding how to make this impact will help further a company’s carbon goals.

The program focuses on global supply chain management, which means working with companies worldwide to create sustainable products. Much like the fight against climate change, a supply chain must be a global operation, and UT’s online master’s program offers students the skills to become leaders in the field.

Learn more about the MS SCM Online program, including key dates, informational webinars, graduate testimonials, and registration information. Fill out the form below to request more information.

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