Means To An End: Managing Supply Chain Sustainability Amid Profit-Driven Industries

“Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.” 

~Immanuel Kant

Management Consultants in Chennai are needed more than ever as businesses are increasingly recognizing the need to practice ethical supply chain operations. Identifying incorrect practices that companies inadvertently follow and how to practice moral supply chain values in a revenue-driven organisation requires the guiding hand of a Management Consultant.

Let’s simplify this concept with the help of Leopold II.

Bear with us as we go back to a certain era for a brief moment. Leopold II, the king of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909 was credited for his role in the development of the modern Belgian state. But to make this happen, Leopold II subjected his colonial subjects to various atrocities. He also established the Congo Free State by brutally seizing the African people, including control of their land.

We’re sure, many more leaders who exploited their people and resources come to mind. Well, they’ve only focused on the ends, while neglecting the means. In today’s age of modern-day slavery, the exploitation continues but is rather hidden in plain sight. The supply chain process is no stranger to business owners abusing the means to get to an end.

This post will properly map out the sustainability methods businesses should adopt in their supply chain processes. We will also address why sustainability plays a significant role in the way businesses run operations.

Managing Supply Chain Responsibilities

Do businesses incorporate ethical means to an end? Or, is it only about generating jaw-dropping revenue by the end of the year?

To make sure that businesses operate ethically, concerning ESG Management (Environmental, Social, and Governance), it is imperative to take a closer look at their supply chain operations.

So, where do we stand today in terms of adopting ethical supply chain practices?

-The global economy is losing $8.8 trillion due to worker stress being at its highest. Tens of millions of people switched jobs during the great resignation in the US. 

-In a study based on 6,863 employees in India, 23% of employees switched their jobs. 

– According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the textile industry has contributed to 17-20% of industrial water pollution in India. This industry is also the third largest water polluter in India due to the significant use of toxic chemicals, leaching into water bodies. 

But, what has this got to do with supply chain sustainability? 

In the thirst for skyrocketing profits, many companies readily exploit the resources they have at hand, including human labour. Therefore, businesses need to take into account economic, social, and environmental impacts by minimising negative influences on each aspect.

Why And How To Practice Ethical Supply Chain Practices

Let’s talk about how the supply chain is the means, and the end is the customer, and how environmental, social, and economic practices should be adopted.

Effects On The Environment

Many businesses like those included in the textiles industry or manufacturing companies make use of dangerous chemicals. Once used, the residues have to be disposed of carefully with proper care for the environment, but this was seldom considered. Nowadays, more and more companies are looking towards creating sustainable ways of transporting chemical wastes to dispose of them in a clean manner.

Reducing the carbon footprint is good for the environment. This can be done by optimising transportation, using eco-friendly materials, and reducing the wastage of resources.

Conduct a proper EIA or Environmental Impact Assessment to identify areas where improvements can be made.

Social Accountability

The pandemic days saw a shift in the attitude of both the employers and the employees. The employers wanted staff to work longer hours to enable a continuous flow of revenue. On the other hand, employees realised the need for a balanced work environment. However, not many employees had the luxury of shifting jobs when their needs weren’t met or they were treated unfairly.

Therefore, it becomes imperative to create a supply chain that holds social accountability in high esteem. In the bargain, businesses can develop better customer relationships, reputation, and competency in the market.

Set up measurable goals to specify targets for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, minimising waste, and ethical human sourcing methods. Also, redesign products that can be easily recycled upon reaching the disposal phase.

The Positives Of Economic Sustainability

Customers too want to shop from brands that care for the people who work for them. The moment a brand is tagged as exploiting its employees, the business is bound to lose significant revenue.

So, implementing ethical practices like paying the right wages, limiting working hours and not exceeding human capacity to work can go well for business. Of course, this measure is not strictly business-driven but with social accountability placed as the core focus.

Address transportation methods, delivery options, disruptions, load efficiency, and regulatory updates to improve sustainability performances.

Clearly, the means to an end for any business in the supply chain sector should be managed ethically. It is as the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Business without Morality will destroy us.”

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