ArrowStream Foodservice Blog

Beginner's Guide to Sustainable Food Supply Chain Management

Posted by Kate Hubbard on Sep 4, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Promoting sustainability within your restaurant’s supply chain is sometimes portrayed as an overwhelming and expensive transition.

Many underestimate the realistic and cost-effective achievability of sustainability measures with the right management system in place.  The most apparent and altruistic benefit is that you are minimizing the environmental footprint of your brand and restaurant locations, and laying a foundation of sustainability for years to come.

However, there are many financially motivated reasons why choosing a sustainable food supply chain system is a great choice to make. Curious to learn how supply chain software features can help you achieve sustainability? We've got you covered. Software that uses centralized data automation to promote competitive sourcing, end-to-end visibility and optimized freight management are essential for improving your bottom line and creating an efficient, sustainable supply chain.

Competitive Sourcing for Greater Supply Chain Control

A strategic sourcing strategy is essential for today’s economic climate. Between increasingly globalized supply chains, market disruption caused by COVID-19, and resource scarcity, sourcing decisions must be supported by data. Protective procedures regarding product substitutions and shortages should also be offered if sourcing becomes compromised.

With centralized software solutions, data regarding spend and contract information helps you pick reliable and consistent foodservice suppliers who balance cost and quality. Sourcing regularly from the same suppliers gives you more control over your environmental footprint as you can verify supplier data and their environmental footprint.

For instance, you can verify how your supplier handles emissions and uses their water and land. 

This improved efficiency of sourcing more products from fewer suppliers also has the ability to help you save up to 18% on your sourcing budget and prevent rogue buying. Sourcing begins your supply chain’s path and affects your company’s budget and footprint, so ensure these beginning process improvements don’t get overlooked.

End-to-End Inventory Visibility

Cleaner visibility into your supply chain shows you where your operations can be optimized. Whether it’s reducing the amount of inventory backstock so products don’t go bad or streamlining your packaging process, inventory visibility helps you make easy changes that prevent waste and save money. 

  • Inventory alerts & runout tracking help you order food items based on a need and demand basis rather than relying on inconsistent company estimates. This further reduces obsolete inventory and the consumption associated with it.
  • Configurable data and distribution center dashboards help you gain expert insights into inventory movements and promote supply chain collaboration. This ensures sustainability initiatives are strengthened by evidence of what is successful and can be forecasted. 

These are extremely important because if you are investing in sustainability, you want to make sure goals can be measured and that actions actually result in lower environmental impact and improved business procedures.

Real-time inventory data can also help you operate normally when experiencing market disruption. 

For instance, not only will you be able to quickly manage supply shortages and needed product substitutions, but you will also be able to determine alternative products based on quality, nearby sourcing and lower environmental impact. 

End-to-end visibility provides a long-term risk mitigation strategy, meaning this feature is just as sustainable for your organization as it has the potential to be for the planet.

Optimized Freight Management

How distributors manage freight significantly affects customer service, cost, shipment times and transportation-related pollution.

Using software to identify opportunities for freight consolidation helps distributors gain control of inbound logistics, ensuring a mutual partnership that strives to accelerate routes and continuously optimize operations, resulting in cost reductions.

Distributors who strive for this can reduce inbound freight costs by 20%, while also increasing freight capacity and reducing their carbon footprint by 4% through consolidations and increased truck volumes, creating conditions for sustainable inventory transportation.

Another benefit of accomplishing this is distributors also improve customer service by gaining better visibility of inventory in transit, improving delivery times, and reducing risk.

3 Benefits of a Sustainable Food Supply Chain System

Sustainability requires optimizing resource use and business operations, such as inventory, product line assembly, delivery, and more, to maximize your efficiency to the fullest degree. With success results including happier customers, better service, and improved inspection scores, here are the top benefits of a sustainable food supply chain system.

1. Meet Regulation & Inspection Requirements


Having software that provides easily accessible data with guidance developing actionable goals creates accountability and transparency. Your measurable improvements in sustainability and efficiency can be easily drafted into reports to get approved faster by third-party inspectors enforcing environmental requirements.

You also help everyone in your supply chain reduce the chance of not being within compliance of an environmental regulation. This has the potential to lessen or completely mitigate pollution charges if they are applicable to a segment of your supply chain. 

2. Choose the Optimal Sustainability Route


Sustainability measures are valuable, and it’s useful to recognize which actions are most impactful within the business and environmental world. To correlate with this sentiment, action should be determined based on market data, case studies about sustainability strategies and trusted concepts from economics.

Luckily, modern supply chain software can offer thorough customer support and expert foodservice economists. With trained professionals by your side, you can feel confident about the methods of lowering your carbon footprint and be sure you are maximizing your budget.

Additionally, you don’t want to be a company that faces greenwashing accusations, which refers to the act of misleading customers into conveying more environmentally friendly operations than are true. This leads to a loss of trust, upset customers, and lawsuits in cases where sustainability is used to gain a financial advantage.

Instead, use software to remain transparent. Set goals with specific, actionable steps to achieving them. Even if you don’t initially meet your goals, provide reports that explain measurable improvements, what caused your company to fall short of its goal, and what the plan is to correct this in the future.

If you set idealistic goals but offer no guidance on achieving them, there will likely be pushback among overwhelmed supply chain teams. Instead, leverage data to ensure you are minimizing the company’s environmental impact and gaining a great ROI.

By doing this, you can enforce goals day-by-day in a way that is defined and achievable in the short-term, so that your bigger, long-term goals become less overwhelming.

Some examples of defined goals could be:

3. Expand Your Customer Base

Sustainable food supply chain management doesn’t just benefit those professionally reviewing your operations, it also has the potential to increase your customer base. In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to not follow the environmental repercussions of business as usual forecasts.

Today, 70% of American customers want to buy from brands that prioritize sustainability. Improving efficiency and sustainability go hand-in-hand, which makes minimizing your environmental impact a relevant and cost-effective way of doing business.

Your Next Step to Promoting Sustainability with a Food Supply Chain Software

Join over 200 trusted restaurant chain brands that deliver optimal customer experiences thanks to expert data and analysis.

Achieving a sustainable supply chain does not have to cause financial and opportunity costs. In fact, it can be the exact opposite. By choosing a high-tech food supply chain management system, you create opportunities for sustainability within your organization while using a system that is beneficial for your long-term cost and goals.

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