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Sustainable Supply Chain: "Bringing Sense to the Table"

Nick Hamon, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at Bayer Crop Science, spoke this morning at the April SCRC meeting on the subject of bringing sustainability into the innovation cycle. He emphasized how Bayer’s goal is to move sustainability from debate to constructive conversation. From the abstract to the concrete, and converting it from a project to a platform that is so integrated into the business. Bayer is a chemical company and don’t do a great job of talking about what they do. And sustainability if about also moving it from philanthropy to business opportunity.

Sustainability is a commitment to living and conducting business in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is a globally accepted approach to doing business.
Nick began by saying “Let’s make the assumption that we all care and have purity of heart. We live on the plant, we share it with others, and we do business on this planet. So improving efficiency is aligned with reducing waste.

But how to start? Nick pointed out that “Technology is the enabler of sustainability. We have to innovate and discover ways to apply operational excellence in a way to market ourselves and not be a greenwash. Let’s get it right and understand where you have the biggest impact and on global issues. But sustainability has a third leg to the stool – it is called economics. Reducing cost, innovation, partnerships, and keeping customers and increasing market share, regulation, acceptance of technology. And how can you measure it?

A good place to start is to create a sustainability map. This begins by asking “what is our role from a technology standpoint and where do we interface from a people standpoint and advance sustainability in our communities?”

Where do we have an impact? Supply chain is the first place to reduce cost. About 80% of a company’s emissions is in its supply chains – which means cost. In terms of labor and human rights, the focus of code of conduct will depend on where you are. Labor standard principles are also more important in places such as India and Pakistan. Also reduced transportation drives reduced carbon footprints. But Nick also talked about the challenges of carbon-footprinting and life cycle analysis, and the complexity of moving this forward.

Bayer is a company that is not often rated as one of the top companies, partly because they are so transparent about their faults. They actively track their carbon footprint and their approaches, and acknowledge that they have to improve. But in an industry which is so closely tied to food production, they are very closely engaged in multiple innovative approaches to sustainable supply chains.