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sustainable supply chainThe environment is one of the most important issues facing the modern world. Many companies are taking an active interest in sustainability with regards to their supply chains and improving manufacturing and distribution practices to be more environmentally friendly. But it’s important to remember that your supply chain doesn’t just include you. It also includes your customers. If you really want to work towards sustainability, they need to get involved as well, picking up where your company leaves off.

But the real question is how can you do that? Here are 4 ways to get your customers involved in your sustainable supply chain efforts:

1. Educate Customers

The first thing to do is to help your customers to understand why sustainability is important, and what they can do to help. Provide information on your website about sustainability and their role in it. But don’t just list facts and statistics. Tell stories and provide examples that illustrate why it’s so important for them to do their part. Put in the form of blogs, infographics, and other engaging content that will grab their attention and really help drive home the concepts you’re relating.

2. Encourage Active Involvement

Once you’ve educated your customers, it’s time to get them actively involved in your sustainable supply chain. Find specific activities that they can participate in, such as recycling, volunteering, and donating to charities. You can even allow customers to submit their own ideas for sustainability as well, and integrate the best ones into your supply chain policies. It’s important not to be too pushy, though. Encourage involvement, but don’t try to force it on people.

3. Make It Easy and Enjoyable

Even after you explain the importance of conservation and sustainability, you won’t get much involvement if your customers don’t find the activity engaging. Find methods of involvement that are simple and enjoyable. For instance, Panera uses recyclable packaging and encourages its customers to recycle instead of simply throw it away. They also have initiatives that help their customers to donate to local community organizations. Both of these activities are easy to do but provide customers with a sense of accomplishment that makes them likely to keep doing it.

4. Offer Incentives

This can be tricky ground to cover. On the one hand, offering rewards and incentives can be a great way to motivate people towards action. On the other hand, it tends to be more of a short-term strategy. Once the incentives stop, the action stops as well. However, if you can provide a reward that’s ongoing, it can be very helpful in encouraging sustainability. For instance, Broguiere’s Dairy sells high-end milk products to stores around the Southern California area. Their products come in glass bottles, which, when empty, customers are encouraged to return to the store from which they bought it, for a dollar back. The bottles then go back to the dairy to be washed and reused again and again. It’s a small reward, but effective, and it’s not uncommon, in stores that sell Broguiere’s, to see fresh milk in bottles dated several years earlier.

No matter how many steps you take towards a sustainable supply chain, they won’t be as effective unless your customers are actively working towards sustainability as well. Making them environmentally conscious and including them in the process can not only improve your sustainability efforts, but will also improve your company’s image!

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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