JÄGER Busi­ness Blog

How to improve your car­bon foot­print:

mak­ing the rub­ber sup­ply chain sustainable

25.05.2022   |  Torsten Schönwald

Grafik mit Icons zur Nachhaltigkeit auf grünem Hintergrund

WHITEPAPER

Rub­ber and plas­tics in mod­ern agri­cul­tur­al technology

Learn how agri­cul­tur­al tech­nol­o­gy can meet most of today’s challenges

More and more pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies in Ger­many have set them­selves the goal of oper­at­ing in a CO2-neu­tral man­ner — part­ly for intrin­sic rea­sons, part­ly in response to the increas­ing pres­sure for action from soci­ety and politics.

How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to bear in mind that sus­tain­abil­i­ty does not just con­cern a company’s own process­es, but includes the entire val­ue chain, from the extrac­tion of raw mate­ri­als to the design and man­u­fac­ture of prod­ucts and their dis­pos­al. Com­pa­nies that want to reduce their car­bon foot­print should there­fore also put their sup­ply chain man­age­ment to the test.

Make or Buy?

On the orga­ni­za­tion side, there are some fun­da­men­tal steps to clar­i­fy that have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the car­bon foot­print in the rub­ber sup­ply chain.

This con­cerns, for exam­ple, the make-or-buy deci­sion. On the one hand, when rub­ber com­po­nents are pro­duced in-house, CO2 emis­sion process­es can be bet­ter con­trolled, ana­lyzed and sub­sti­tut­ed. On the oth­er hand, some man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es require spe­cif­ic know-how, which exter­nal ser­vice providers can con­tribute more eas­i­ly. Their tech­ni­cal spe­cial­iza­tion enables improved capac­i­ty plan­ning and thus low­er CO2 emis­sions. Build­ing up this knowl­edge in in-house pro­duc­tion con­sumes con­sid­er­able resources and is not always eco­nom­i­cal. In addi­tion, spe­cial­ized providers ben­e­fit from economies of scale that bring their green­house gas emis­sions per unit well below those of an in-house producer.

Pack­ag­ing and logistics

Inter­nal logis­tics offer fur­ther poten­tial for opti­miza­tion. Inef­fi­cient pack­ag­ing solu­tions cre­ate waste, the pro­duc­tion and dis­pos­al of which gen­er­ate unnec­es­sary CO2 emis­sions. This is the case, for exam­ple, with rub­ber arti­cles whose pack­ag­ing units do not cor­re­spond to card­board box­es or stan­dard sizes. These have to be addi­tion­al­ly pack­aged, secured or repack­aged, result­ing in more pack­ag­ing waste. Switch­ing to recy­clable pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als or recy­clable trans­port box­es is also a lever for improv­ing the car­bon footprint.

In addi­tion, com­pa­nies should take a close look at their order­ing process­es. There is often an oppor­tu­ni­ty to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce CO2 emis­sions by chang­ing pro­cure­ment behav­ior. Just-in-time struc­tures, for exam­ple, are char­ac­ter­ized by fre­quent deliv­er­ies that pre­cise­ly cov­er the mate­r­i­al require­ments of a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od of time. Replac­ing this approach, at least in part, with col­lec­tive orders or frame­work agree­ments with larg­er deliv­ery quan­ti­ties has a pos­i­tive effect on the CO2 bal­ance and pro­tects the environment.

Sus­tain­able sup­pli­er selec­tion improves car­bon footprint

The basis of a sus­tain­able sup­ply chain is a respon­si­ble selec­tion of sup­pli­ers. First and fore­most, com­pa­nies should ensure that their sup­pli­ers com­ply with all legal require­ments and have indus­try-stan­dard cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, such as ISO 14001 for envi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment and ISO 50001 for ener­gy man­age­ment. These sim­pli­fy both sup­pli­er eval­u­a­tion and proof to author­i­ties. The sec­ond point is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant in Ger­many with regard to the upcom­ing Sup­ply Chain Com­pli­ance Act.

In terms of loca­tion, local sup­pli­ers have a more favor­able impact on the company’s car­bon foot­print than their com­peti­tors from the Far East. Although the glob­al sup­ply chain for nat­ur­al rub­ber is spread all over the world (rub­ber trees grow main­ly in South­east Asia), short dis­tances between cus­tomer and sup­pli­er offer some advan­tages. Arti­cle and mate­r­i­al sam­ples, par­tial quan­ti­ties or returns, for exam­ple, are much eas­i­er to man­age and more cli­mate-friend­ly, as they cause low­er CO2 emissions.

The same applies to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Even in the age of online meet­ings, face-to-face meet­ings are often unavoid­able — and a train ride is less harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment than an inter­con­ti­nen­tal flight. In addi­tion, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that the EU has devel­oped stricter cli­mate pro­tec­tion require­ments by inter­na­tion­al stan­dards, which local sup­pli­ers must adhere to.

Envi­ron­men­tal audits are a must

The com­plete rub­ber sup­ply chain is dif­fi­cult for com­pa­nies to keep track of. From the extrac­tion of raw mate­ri­als to the fin­ished part, on aver­age four to five play­ers are involved, many of whom are based in South­east Asia. Con­tact is usu­al­ly only with direct sup­pli­ers, so close col­lab­o­ra­tion is imper­a­tive to influ­ence upstream sup­pli­ers as well.

Cus­tomers can assess sup­pli­ers’ sus­tain­abil­i­ty efforts through envi­ron­men­tal audits, such as ISO 14001, and com­pa­nies should ensure that their entire sup­pli­er net­work is cer­ti­fied accord­ing­ly. If there are doubts about the legit­i­ma­cy of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, for exam­ple because the audi­tor is close to the sup­pli­er, they can request a review by their own qual­i­ty assur­ance depart­ment. How­ev­er, this is a rare occurrence.

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Sol­id sup­pli­er man­age­ment is essential

Com­pa­nies should also ensure that their sup­pli­ers cov­er their own ener­gy require­ments from renew­able sources as far as pos­si­ble, gear their process­es toward cli­mate-neu­tral action and train their team accord­ing­ly.

If this is not suf­fi­cient­ly the case, the cus­tomer can sup­port the sup­pli­er in opti­miz­ing its car­bon foot­print. This is eas­i­er to do with long-term part­ners, as the cus­tomer has a greater influ­ence on the busi­ness rela­tion­ship here. But new sup­pli­ers are often open to sug­ges­tions as well.

Parts of sup­pli­er man­age­ment can be done dig­i­tal­ly. In some sit­u­a­tions, how­ev­er, per­son­al con­tact is nec­es­sary, for exam­ple when the cus­tomer vis­its plants as part of an envi­ron­men­tal audit. Such busi­ness trips also cause CO2 emis­sions. While these are not com­pa­ra­ble to pro­duc­tion or trans­porta­tion, they should still be con­sid­ered. If an exchange of infor­ma­tion can take place dig­i­tal­ly, it should.

Recy­cling of rub­ber is asso­ci­at­ed with high CO2 emissions

The car­bon foot­print of prod­ucts depends not only on pro­duc­tion and trans­port. Their entire ser­vice life is cru­cial. This also includes disposal.

At this point, reduc­ing green­house gas­es in the rub­ber sec­tor is some­what dif­fi­cult, because rub­ber prod­ucts are dif­fi­cult to recy­cle. To be sure, there are indi­vid­ual light­house projects that recy­cle rub­ber for spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions. In prac­tice, how­ev­er, land­fill­ing or incin­er­a­tion in waste-to-ener­gy plants pre­dom­i­nate, but these are not exact­ly ben­e­fi­cial to the CO2 footprint.

For this rea­son, the focus in the rub­ber sec­tor is on waste pre­ven­tion, not recy­cling. Start­ing points here are in design as well as in man­u­fac­tur­ing on the sup­pli­er side.

Con­clu­sion

A sus­tain­able sup­ply chain for nat­ur­al rub­ber requires close coop­er­a­tion between all the play­ers involved, from raw mate­r­i­al extrac­tion to prod­uct man­u­fac­ture. Indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies have only lim­it­ed influ­ence on the over­all process here. As a rule, all par­ties involved inter­act only with their imme­di­ate sup­pli­ers and customers.

It is there­fore impor­tant to use the remain­ing levers as effi­cient­ly as pos­si­ble. Com­pa­nies should coop­er­ate close­ly with their sup­pli­ers, min­i­mize their own CO2 emis­sions, and pay atten­tion to cli­mate-friend­ly fac­tors as ear­ly as the sup­pli­er selec­tion stage. Every play­er in the sup­ply chain must do their part to reduce envi­ron­men­tal­ly harm­ful emis­sions, because this is the only way to estab­lish a sus­tain­able sup­ply chain in the long term and mit­i­gate the con­se­quences of cli­mate change.

Whitepa­per:
Rub­ber and plas­tics in mod­ern agri­cul­tur­al technology

Learn how agri­cul­tur­al tech­nol­o­gy can meet most of today’s challenges

Mitarbeiterportrait von Torsten Schönwald

Autor: Torsten Schönwald

Torsten Schön­wald is in charge of the rub­ber mold­ed parts divi­sion in com­mod­i­ty pur­chas­ing at Jäger. The state-cer­ti­fied busi­ness econ­o­mist has been with the com­pa­ny since 2018 and has been involved with logis­tics and pro­cure­ment process­es for more than eight years.

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