Archive for January, 2014

Can an SME’s Supply Chain be the Source of Ideas for Business Sustainability?

A supply chain (or value chain) is actually a network of individuals, organizations, resources, actions and technologies involved in the creation of a product – from materials and components, supplies and services to manufacturing processes through to packaging and delivery of your product to the end user.

In trying to find ways to be environmentally and financially sustainable, many small businesses focus on environmental aspects of what goes on within their own operation. That’s great and it’s understandable because we tend to focus on what we can most easily control. However, the environmental profile of any product is determined by everyone that has influence over even a part of it, and by everything that goes into it. For instance, are there any ingredients in your product that could cause health concerns if burned or spilled? How much of your product is made from easily renewable materials? Do any of the components off-gas? How much energy does it take to produce the raw materials? Or to manufacture any parts you don’t make yourself? Is your packaging recyclable or biodegradable? Can your products be re-used or re-conditioned/upgraded?
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Life Cycle Assessment: What’s Involved? Can Small Business ‘Cut to the Chase?’

These days, more and more organizations are considering “life cycle assessment” (LCAS) to evaluate purchasing and use of various products and services. The LCA technique assesses environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life – from raw material extraction and processing to manufacturing and blending, packaging, distribution, installation, use, and disposal or recycling. In this sense, a life cycle assessment parallels the product’s complete supply chain. If you want to bring a product to market, distribute someone else’s product, or incorporate components into a new or existing product, you will likely need to be able to address LCA considerations.  For instance, more and more these days, your customers may be incorporating LCA considerations into RFPs or tenders. Are you ready to respond?

Life Cycle Assessment typically uses a recognized global methodology that is transparent, holistic and balanced. (See: ISO 14040: Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and Framework, Second Edition, 2006 as well as Requirements and Guidelines, First Edition, International Organization for Standardization, 2006).

LCAs involve:

  • Determining the goal and scope of the LCA
  • Conducting an inventory of all energy/material inputs and environmental releases (for instance, think about possible off-gassing from office furniture).
  • Assessment of the potential impacts associated with all inputs and releases

All of this information is used to provide an interpretation of the results to help customers make informed decisions based on sound technical analysis.

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Are Ecological Footprint Tools Useful for Small Business?

Many people have seen recent reports suggesting that the “ecological footprint” of humanity is rapidly outstripping the earth’s capacity to support us. Most of these reports are based on the work of the Global Footprint Network, a decade-old not-for-profit organization that “provides tools and programs to help countries thrive in a resource-constrained world.” By enabling the calculation of per capita measurements of the demands our lifestyles place on the earth, the Ecological Footprint tools help us see how we stack up to other jurisdictions and which areas of our lifestyles place the greatest demands on the planet. It’s easy to imagine how countries, states/provinces, municipalities, individuals – or even corporations with a global reach – could find value in footprint analysis. But what about small business?

Here are three reasons why Ecological Footprint analysis can be useful to small business, but this particular analysis is not sufficient if you want to have a positive impact on the environment through your business:

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