What is Sustainable IT?  

Sustainable IT is the concept that the creation, management, and disposal of information technology can have a minimal impact on the environment. For example, you wouldn’t throw away a laptop after only a year of use. Getting the most possible use out of technology is one way to be sustainable in IT.  

A more relevant example is EDI, or electronic data interchange. When your company uses EDI to transmit and receive documents rather than mailing paper versions of them, you are making a sustainable choice. EDI eliminates the need for paper, which in turn creates a positive impact on the environment.  

Of course, this is a no-brainer. But let’s put it into perspective: TIE Kinetix alone facilitates more than one billion electronic document exchanges annually. If one tree produces 10,000 sheets of paper (approximately), this means that we’re doing our part to help the environment by saving 10,000 trees per year! It’s also important to remember that the elimination of paper results in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as a decrease in the pollution that naturally occurs when paper mail is transported via post.  

How to Bring Sustainability into Your Supply Chain 

There are quite a few ways to adapt more sustainable practices into your supply chain, and we’re well aware that implementing an EDI solution is only a small step. Large companies like Clorox are setting goals like zero-net emissions by 2030, but it’s okay if you’re not quite there yet.  

What’s important to highlight here is that sustainability discussions are no longer reserved for large corporates and green start-ups. For any business, staying profitable is still the highest priority, but what used to be more of an afterthought for many companies is now on the list of whiteboard topics. So if you’re just starting to navigate this changing corporate landscape where sustainability is creeping toward the forefront, we have some tips on how you can begin to take some small steps with a potentially major impact. 

How EDI Can Serve as a Starting Point for Sustainable Practices 

If you’re looking to identify areas in your supply chain that can be improved, whether that’s from purely an efficiency standpoint or a sustainability perspective, you first need to have access to the relevant data. Digitalizing document exchange with an EDI solution is the first step in gathering this data.  

By digitalizing your document exchange, you can begin to spot certain elements of your supply chain, like your company’s buying patterns. Then, for example, this collected data could be used to identify ways to group shipments and therefore decrease transportation pollution.  

An EDI solution can also help you decrease consumption within your supply chain by giving you full transparency into warehouse and distribution center activities, as well as third-party logistics (3PL) operations. When you have full transparency into these activities, you can analyze the locations that are underperforming and weed those out. With the ability to recognize low-traffic instances in your supply chain, you can make strategic decisions to consolidate where you can. It goes without saying that eliminating physical locations without compromising operations is a step in the right direction for achieving a sustainable supply chain. In fact, it’s more likely that your productivity will increase, and costs will go down.    

How Traditional EDI Can Be Expanded to Meet Your Company’s Needs 

Traditional EDI exchanges (purchase orders, order responses, shipment notices, invoices, etc.) can be expanded to include many other documents that may be relevant to your company’s operations. In this case, your EDI solution will support this to an extent, but then it can be combined with other solutions that will add to sustainability efforts.  

An example of one of these solutions is a sourcing solution (S2P) that would enable proper vetting of trading partners to ensure that they meet certain sustainability guidelines. This not only benefits your company’s sustainability status, but also looks great from a consumer point of view.  

Another example is identifying better transport routes for deliveries. Real-time status updates from EDI exchanges can enable your company to detect your inefficient transportation routes. Alongside the AI and machine learning technologies that are deployed in your EDI solution, you’ll be automatically notified of any inconsistencies or gaps. This can help with identifying transportation delays that you may have missed and addressing the factors that may be causing the delay.    

Remember: Small changes can drive big results. Alone, an EDI solution cannot transform your supply chain overnight. However, it can enable data-driven decisions that can be used alongside additional supply chain measures, which lead to increased sustainability practices.