"Take 5" – Talking Supply Chain Sustainability

Alexis Bateman, research affiliate and visiting lecturer at MIT, shares the top concerns for mattress manufacturers who are trying to achieve supply chain sustainability. Be sure to watch till the end to get tools to help you in your sustainability efforts.


Alexis Bateman
Even talking about my own dad. He said, I’ve been in supply chain for ten years, and he didn’t understand what a supply chain was. He only understood during COVID when he couldn’t get the product that he needed. So he couldn’t get his iPhone. He couldn’t get whatever products he had to actually order it on Amazon to get to the store.

So supply chains are now far more evident, and the actual different partners in the supply chain are evident to consumers.

Waynette Goodson
It’s Waynette Goodson, and I’m your managing editor of BedTimes and Sleep Savvy Magazines. And I’m here today with Alexis Bateman, and she is talking today at our conference about the path toward supply chain sustainability. Those are two words you don’t often hear together to school us on what role supply chain transparency plays in sustainability.

Alexis Bateman
Yeah, absolutely. So supply chains, as you said, supply chain and sustainability are two topics that are coming together now, thinking about the impact of supply chains in sustainability. So we see that as firms look at their overall impact across a mission, water, human rights, and other ESG issues, that supply chain actually plays a huge role in that. So as much as 80% of a product’s carbon impact can lie in the supply chain.

Waynette Goodson
Wow. So you can’t only think about where you’re going downstream, and you have to be thinking about upstream, too, in two directions, and that is tricky. Now, what are the top concerns that firms should be thinking about right now when it comes to transparency in supply chain?

Alexis Bateman
Yeah, some of the concerns are that it’s no longer voluntary if not. So a lot of companies are a little bit comfortable with where it’s at right now. It’s sort of a voluntary thing that sustainability – be a good corporate citizen. But now there’s forthcoming regulation being put out in the U.S. and Europe, SEC other EU regulations that require you to have upstream and downstream transparency in your supply chain to be able to account for your sustainability impact.

And that’s heavy across carbon. But it’s going to be rolling into other dimensions like human rights. This actually is occurring within the U.S., where if you’re importing a good and you can’t verify the source of origin of some of the components, you can have your product blocked at the border. And so there’s a lot of actual really strict requirements coming into play that are no longer voluntary.

So the top concern is it’s becoming compliant, and it’s not just voluntary anymore. The other big kind of symbolic shift is that it’s just a lot more it’s just a lot more prominent in the public sphere, right? So stakeholders across investors, your consumers, and shareholders. Yes. So the public is looking at this topic more than it ever was before. So any kind of, you know, thinly veiled goals or greenwashing isn’t tolerated anymore.

Alexis Bateman
There’s a lot more scrutiny on how companies are setting these goals and how they’re achieving them.

Waynette Goodson
And implementing them. And I hope you heard the part about it not going to be voluntary for much longer. So now, finally, give us some tools like where can firms look to get a better understanding of transparency.

Alexis Bateman
Yeah, So there are definitely different tools, and I think they fall into three buckets, right? So definitely people are looking at technology, and so they want to know actually how do we account for our impact, whether you’re looking at assessing your carbon emissions within manufacturing sites, whether that be in the transportation, what are the other like technologies we can adopt to not only just account for our impact but reduce that impacts the technology’s a big bucket.

A lot of software is coming out to help integrate your data sources so that you can account for your impact track, metrics and KPIs over time in your performance. But then, you know, the other tools are really the people in the process, right? So, we looked at technology as an opportunity to innovate in advance and reduce the manual burden.

Alexis Bateman
But it is also about, you know, partnerships across the supply chain, suppliers and customers working across the supply chain, across industries. You know, specifically, for instance, here in the mattress industry, working across with your competitors, working with your suppliers to actually drive adoption, understanding where the hotspots of impact lie, and working together.

So it’s a lot of, you know, investment on the technology we can adopt, and there is a lot of advancement there, you know, in many different dimensions. But then it is the people and the processes about how we’re coming together, you know, identifying what impact we can have and working across industries.

Waynette Goodson
So it sounds like with almost anything, sustainability is definitely going to require a village, and it’s going to be a team effort. Well, Alexis, thank you so much for being here today and bringing us all your knowledge because sustainability is such an important topic now for our industry. You all, please keep tuning in to our videos and our coverage as we are trying to cover sustainability monthly for you.

Waynette Goodson
And as always, have a great night’s sleep.

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