David McLaughlin and Paul Duckworth discuss how to make supply chains more sustainable

David McLaughlin and Paul Duckworth discuss how to make supply chains more sustainable

Organisations are looking to work with supply chain partners that have a minimal environmental footprint, such as those using renewable energy to power their operations, says Duckworth (left) and McLaughlin (right) 

The RSM US executives explain how cloud technology can support organisations’ sustainability efforts  

Alex Smith |

With environmental concerns becoming increasingly pressing, businesses across all industries are facing demands to make their operations more sustainable. One of the most significant barriers to achieving this goal is minimising the impact of their supply chains. While relatively simple in theory, the reality is that such a project requires an enormous amount of effort. First, businesses must calculate the current impact of their supply chain before they can identify how to reduce it, explains David McLaughlin, principal Dynamics 365 industrials leader at consulting services provider RSM US. 

“On a basic level, a sustainable supply chain is one that uses a sustainable number of resources and has a minimal carbon footprint,” he says. “However, organisations need reliable data to back up any claim of having a sustainable supply chain. To do this, they need to understand the key metrics at each point in the supply chain and benchmark them against a target. You need to have a method to define those metrics and roll them up to an organisational level, and then ideally at a product level. If you don’t measure your processes, you won’t be able to make the right adjustments to drive improvements in sustainability.” 

Understanding the true impact of their supply chain requires organisations to calculate Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. The latter refers to the emissions that they are indirectly responsible for, such as those produced in making the products it has bought from a supplier, or when its customers use their products. They often make up the largest share of an organisation’s total emissions but can be difficult to evaluate. 

“It can be wildly complicated to understand an organisation’s Scope 3 emissions, as many of their suppliers will not provide data about their environmental footprints,” says Paul Duckworth, customer experience manager – environment, social and governance speciality at RSM. “Without the existence or availability of that data, it’s very difficult to truly understand an overall footprint. Sometimes, organisations may have to switch to suppliers that provide this data so they can make better decisions in their sustainability efforts.” 

Collaboration between stakeholders up and down the supply chain is therefore crucial for ensuring sustainability. Among the tools that businesses can use to facilitate this collaboration are cloud-based solutions.  

“Being in the cloud allows suppliers to proactively feed data to an organisation, enabling it to measure the environmental impact of its supply chain effectively and make the appropriate decisions in response,” says Duckworth.  

“This is where Microsoft is headed with the Supply Chain Center solution,” adds McLaughlin. “It’s geared around collaboration with suppliers and understanding what’s happening in a supply chain at a macro level. Once an organisation starts doing that, it’s much easier for them to bring in attributes around sustainability. For example, sustainability key performance indicators could be stored as attributes in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain, then exposed downstream to customers.” 

The cloud can also enable organisations to take advantage of the rapid new advances in artificial intelligence in their supply chain management. As a leader in AI development, Microsoft is implementing AI technologies within its supply chain solutions.  

“Microsoft Copilot in Supply Chain Center will trawl the internet and highlight relevant insights into events that could impact your supply chain, which isn’t possible without the cloud,” says McLaughlin. “Another benefit is that newer solutions such as Supply Chain Center and Sustainability Manager will often now have pre-built connectors to the most common cloud enterprise resource planning solutions. This makes it cheaper and quicker to connect these systems, and organisations using these solutions can expose data downstream and collaborate more efficiently.” 

RSM provides expert support to its customers as they look to navigate the complexity of evaluating the sustainability of their supply chain and taking the necessary actions to improve it. 

“RSM has a technology consulting team with a broad range of expertise, covering the full stack of Microsoft solutions including Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain, Business Central and Customer Engagement, as well as related solutions,” says McLaughlin. “We carry out full life cycle deployments and provide support for organisations that have already deployed their solutions and are looking to get more value from their investment. On top of that, our management consulting team brings supply chain expertise, while our data analytics practice helps to bring cloud analytics to life.” 

Duckworth adds: “We also have an environment, social and governance team that helps define what our sustainability goals in a project should be. Their view of what’s coming down the pipe in the next few years helps drive the technology and the way in which the technology stacks are configured and customised. Technology is our bread and butter, but the expertise we provide in our consulting team differentiates us.” 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription

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