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Supply chains might seem like an odd topic for social impact organisations to be concerned about, especially when most people think of supply chains as being something that manufacturers and retailers need to be aware of. Well, maybe not. You see increasingly social impact organisations, especially social enterprises, are making things and delivering services based on resources sourced elsewhere.

While it is good that your travel water bottle is made from recycled materials, what about the machines that were used in the manufacture process of that bottle? Where they also made from recycled materials, were they made traditionally and are they steel or metal, created as part of the extractive industries? Was heat used at any point in the manufacture process, if so, what was the heat source and how was it procured? Oil is often used as a lubricant for machinery or in the manufacturing process for plastics or composite materials. Have you checked that a bio-oil is used instead, or is the process only possible with refined fossil fuels? Were the recycled materials sorted using trafficked labour? And transported to the manufacturing site on road, rail, sea or air? What about distribution of the finished article to either you or retailers? Did you buy the bottle on your phone? A smart phone? That works using rare-earth minerals?

You see, the whole process, from conception of an idea through to delivery to the customer / client is so embedded in a traditional way of doing things that sometimes we don’t stop to think about the supply chains behind each and every thing that we use, own, touch, consume.

This is especially important for social impact organisations. You need to be exceptionally careful in understanding your supply chains and where you can make improvements by working with suppliers to improve their own practices. And understanding where you cannot make improvements and being honest with your stakeholders, beneficiaries, customers about why this is and how else you might be able to mitigage against the negative impact those steps in your supply chain might be having.

Clean supply chains is about to become really big business. Make sure you’re as clear on your supply chains as you can be.


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