The National Retail Federation’s annual expo kicks off on Monday in New York with more than 1,000 exhibitors, 150 sessions and a focus on a handful of “disruptor” issues. Climate change and sustainability will take center stage at NRF 2023.
“Climate change, circular economy and sustainability have all come to the forefront over the past few years and global supply chains sit right in the middle of these challenges: as a major contributor to the problems and as a great area of focus where we can take action to address the problems,” said Richard Howells, a supply chain expert at SAP.
While many companies have created mission statements and goals around sustainability — for example, becoming carbon neutral over the next decade — many still lack the ability to capture, monitor and measure their emissions and waste. Supply chains have a huge part to play in addressing that.
An estimated 76% of global trade passes through supply chains according to the International Trade Administration, with much of it destined for the retail sector. End-to-end supply chain transparency is critical to help retail businesses meet regulatory, governmental and company-mandated goals. This transparency needs to encompass not only their own facilities but also those of suppliers, contract manufacturers, logistics service providers and other partners across the business network.
“Sustainability initiatives must extend from the design to the decommission of a product, from raw materials sourcing to last-mile logistics, and even to product usage, returns and recycling processes,” Howells said. “At every stage in the life cycle of specific products, there are social and environmental impacts.”
From the start, product design must be made with end of life in mind, including how they will be recycled, reused, repurposed and returned to the earth.
“Planning processes must take into account not only optimizing inventory, asset utilization and cost reduction, but also emission reduction and ethical material sourcing that eliminates slave labor and ensures fair trade regulations,” Howells said. “Manufacturing and logistics processes must focus on eliminating waste and emissions and ensure the safety of the workforce.”