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What is Supply Chain Traceability?

Supply Chain Traceability

As our world turns and far flung communities come closer together, the classic local supply chains that serve small business owners are disintegrating. Between the dropshipping moguls, mass-produced gadgetry, and cheap labor across seas, brands are turning to the global supply chain more than ever.

No, I’m not here to damn the global networks of builders and producers, – although they lean towards cheap plastic alternatives to well-made products, and that’s problematic for our planet – but I do want to talk about something important for sustainable brands: supply chain traceability.

What is Supply Chain Traceability?

Supply chain traceability means you can trace the production of your products to the source.

Understanding your supply chain gives you the opportunity to optimize it for the sustainability of your brand, along with allowing you to make better decisions for your business.

The term “traceability” isn’t new, but it has taken on a new meaning in the past several years. In the beginning, traceability was completely focused on food safety. The EU commissioned that all food companies had to be able to trace their food logistics network all the way back to its origin so that if someone got sick, or something happened within the supply chain, they would be able to minimize the damage to a growing consumer base. 

Now, traceability – or having a transparent supply chain – is often considered in proving the sustainability of a brand. It’s sort of the new sustainable kid on the block, if you will.

Why Sustainable Brands Need a Transparent Supply Chain

When you’re building a sustainable brand, all of your brand methods matter, otherwise you’re greenwashing. Don’t greenwash. That sucks.

Eco-conscious consumers want to know where their stuff comes from. They want to be sure that the brands they buy from aren’t harming indigenous lands or using child labor or increasing their carbon footprint unnecessarily.

A real, quality supply network is expensive so your products probably need to cost more than shit brands. If you don’t share information about how you’re managing your brand’s logistics sustainably, your customers will start to question you, or worse. They may start assuming that you have something to hide. Share the information to gain the respect and trust of your potential customers.

One of the best ways to secure trust from eco-consumers is by answering the questions they have before they reach out and ask you. Put all of your supply management information right on your website! Make it easy to find!

Good website FAQs to get you started on your traceability

Where do your ingredients/components come from?

What are your sourcing requirements?

Where are your products made?

Who makes your products?

Who grows/manufactures your ingredients/components?

What are your supply chain goals?

Why do you hold supply chain transparency so important?

Have you visited your factories?

8 Simple Ways to Use Good Supply Chain Management in Your Marketing Initiatives

Aside from a great search engine listing preview and headings on your FAQ page, knowing and sharing your supply chain is WONDERFUL to use in your marketing.

  1. Make pillar content and micro content around different aspects of your supply chain. Every single question from your FAQs can be an actual article on your site.
  2. Use photos and interviews of your fairly-paid factory workers in your social media.
  3. Do a video walk through of your factories and farms.
  4. Tell the world about how you’re supporting small businesses in developing countries.
  5. Write articles about the renewable energy sources that your brand uses to create your products.
  6. Share the process for finding the recycled materials that you use to make the things you sell.
  7. If you’re focused on regenerative agriculture, share photos from the biodynamic farm that your products come from and share the unique ways things are grown.
  8. If you’re using factories or getting supplies from other parts of the world, share that information and come up with a plan to keep your wages fair and your transportation energy carbon neutral.

Here are Some Great References!

The Role of Traceability in Supply Chain Management (pdf) from the Chalmers University of Technology

The 5 Levels of Supply Chain Transparency from the Kodiak Rating Community

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #12: Responsible Production and Consumption

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