February 27, 2024

Sustainable Supply Chains: A Lesson from the Lorax

Everyone knows the timeless story of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. While it’s undoubtedly a fun read on the surface level, it’s easy to see that the story has a deeper meaning than just fun rhymes and colorful illustrations. It’s a tale about the greed of the Onceler and how he single handedly destroyed the Truffula Tree Forest to make the Thneed, a garment said to be something that all people need. It’s a story that shows how essential it is to not exploit the environment for unsustainable financial gain, and it’s a lesson on the importance of sustainable supply chain management. At its base level, Supply Chain Management is the process by which goods and services are produced and distributed from the producer to consumer. The process includes everything involved in the making of the goods, from the manufacturing of raw materials into the finished product to the transportation costs needed to move the goods to consumers. Proper Supply Chain Management is essential for positive business growth, and without it, instances like The Lorax become all too real. Natural resources like the Truffula Trees get over harvested and raw materials eventually run out. Improper business practices cause negative effects on local communities, such as pollution or loss of opportunities. Decades of these devastating effects have made businesses reevaluate their practices and incorporate more Sustainable Supply Chain Management into their operations. As the name suggests, these are product-generating methods that emphasize environmental health and social equity without compromising on the financial interests of the company. In today’s world, they are an effective way of conducting business in a responsible manner, and many companies are now heading in that direction.

There are multiple ways to engage in Sustainable Supply Chain management, and examples of its successful implementation can be found in companies like IKEA and Patagonia. Both companies use recycled materials and sustainably sourced materials in their product lines. These materials host a wide array of benefits. Using a pre-developed or responsibly crafted product lowers energy costs and pollution emissions on extraction and manufacturing when compared to entirely new products. Using recycled materials also extends the shelf life of a product, increasing landfill diversion rates and encouraging cradle to cradle product design. Sustainably sourced materials are also important - these are materials that were created in an environmentally sustainable manner at no social cost to the communities responsible for the material. Transportation is also a major component of Supply Chain Management - it’s how the goods or services reach the customer. Both companies have invested in renewable energy sources that lower energy costs and power electric vehicles for eco-friendly transportation that lowers carbon emissions and halts Global Climate Change. On the social aspect of sustainability, the companies also excel: both promote practices that emphasize the safety and welfare of their workers and their livelihoods. IKEA and Patagonia and their practices are just some examples of the many ways that employing Sustainable Supply Chain Management can affect a business. If done properly, profits can be expected with the added benefit of lowered environmental impact and the betterment of workers and local communities.

Stories like The Lorax happen in the real world everyday, but there is a growing movement towards creating supply chains that minimize environmental impact and encourage circularity of products all while empowering local communities and workers. Creating sustainable supply chains is a top priority at CIRT. We strive to increase product and packaging circularity through the use of location specific recycling information via CIRT Check. We collect and update recycling data on accepted materials across the world to give customers accurate recovery information for their products. We offer sustainability consulting services and impact assessments to increase supply chain efficiency while balancing stakeholder needs. We care about creating a sustainable future that emphasizes the welfare of the people, the environment, and businesses, and we believe that practices that encourage circularity and equity are one of the many ways to achieve it. Much like the Lorax, we believe that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”