Progress Is Taking a New Direction

Big players in retail and consumer products are beginning to see that business and a better world don’t have to be at odds. They’re taking the lead in cleaning up their supply chains to cut waste and pollution … and strengthen profits … and stock shelves across America with more sustainably produced goods. In this story of progress, everyone wins.


Powerful Business: The Lever for Change Across the Supply Chain

Up and down the supply chain, “business as usual” is actually hurting bottom lines and the planet. Big retailers and consumer products companies have the leverage to change how things are done. When they speak, their suppliers respond. If they commit to sell products made in sustainable ways or with sustainable ingredients, then everyone in the chain, from farmers and chemical producers to agribusinesses and distributors, will take action to make the end product safer and more sustainable.

Environmental Defense Fund has found that cleaning up a few key areas along the supply chain can make the greatest impact. Click around on the supply chains below to find out what can happen when powerful businesses use their leverage to impact deforestation, fertilizer pollution and hazardous chemicals.

logisticsdistributordistributordistributorcerealgrain buyerchemical producerimpact zoneslaughterhousefarmer/fertilizerimpact zoneag services providerimpact zonecattle ranch/deforestationstockyardbeefretailpersonal care productsfood products companypersonal care products companyfood products companyRetailRetailers have the power to make big changes and good reasons to make them: Nearly three-fourths of consumers want to buy more sustainable products – plus, up to 80% of a big retailer’s environmental impact can actually build up in its supply chain. Retailers can set aggressive but achievable sustainability goals for suppliers that allow everyone to thrive with a smaller environmental footprint.Cattle ranch/DeforestationWhen cattle ranchers push into undeveloped forests, they release literally tons of greenhouse gases into the air as they clear the land and leave the soil to be carried away by wind and water. With help from companies up the supply chain, they can find ways to keep their businesses competitive because they’re not sacrificing the land they depend on.impact zoneFood Products CompanyBeef is one of the biggest culprits in deforestation around the globe, but the companies who package and brand America’s beef can throw their weight behind better practices for raising and grazing cattle. If they agree to protect the sensitive forests that are often cleared for pastures, they can put pressure on suppliers who don’t change their ways.CONSUMERPRODUCTSSlaughterhouse & StockyardWhen a food products company has a relationship with the slaughterhouses and stockyards, these companies will be on alert to process sustainably raised beef – or else lose business. They can also curry partnerships with food products companies by using more sustainable transportation methods.DistributorDistributors will be quick to stock more of the products that help the retailer meet its new sustainability goals. They’ll also rethink their warehousing and shipping practices to help retailers cut down on their carbon emissions.personal careproducts CompanyHundreds of thousands of chemicals make it into everyday products – and a significant chunk of those chemicals could have serious effects on human health and the environment. These companies can take a stand on the ingredients in their personal care products and phase out hazardous chemicals by collaborating with retailers and suppliers.CONSUMERPRODUCTSDistributorDistributors will be quick to stock more of the products that help the retailer meet its new sustainability goals. They’ll also rethink their warehousing and shipping practices to help retailers cut down on their carbon emissions.ChemicalProducerWhen the chemical producers’ biggest customers ask for safer chemical options, they have good reason to start supplying different ingredients. They’ll keep their companies healthy now, and they’ll be ready for the future, when more and more retailers and manufacturers (not to mention government agencies) plan to tighten their chemical content policies even further.impact zoneFood ProductsCompanyThe chain reaction can start with retail or with the companies who turn raw materials into the products consumers love. Either way, a cereal manufacturer can raise the bar for its ingredients by calling on grainsuppliers to use fertilizer in more efficient ways.CONSUMERPRODUCTSFarmer/fertilizerJudging the right amount of fertilizer for a field is tricky without the right information. In fact, about half the fertilizer American corn farmers apply to their fields is lost to the air or water before plants can use it. Yet fertilizer represents half the farmers’ operating costs! Meeting grain buyers’ new standards for fertilizer use means farmers will reap cost savings and better prepare themselves for the future, all while slashing pollution.FERTILIZERread the storyHow better fertilizer use yields many benefitsimpact zonegrain buyerGrain buyers and elevator companies will be on the lookout for grains that meet cereal manufacturers’ new standards, sourcing more from farmers who use fertilizer efficiently – and helping their current farmers improve operations.Agricultural Services ProviderThey’ve built a personal relationship – and trust – with farmers. Service providers that also dispense advice to farmers are the perfect link in the chain to help retailers, manufacturers and EDF put fertilizer information and tools right into farmers’ hands.DistributorDistributors will be quick to stock more of the products that help the retailer meet its new sustainability goals. They’ll also rethink their warehousing and shipping practices to help retailers cut down on their carbon emissions.LogisticsGlobal freight emissions are expected to shoot up in the next few decades, thanks to ever- increasing consumer demand. At the same time, retailers and consumer products companies will be cutting emissions wherever possible. If logistics providers, shipping companies and freight carriers build a cleaner, cost-efficient freight system, those "lever" businesses – and their suppliers – will choose it over less efficient competitors.ConsumerSeventy percent of consumers are actively searching for more sustainable products these days – but at the shelf, they feel like they have to choose between the sustainable product and the affordable one. Once sustainability is baked into all the products on the shelves at major retailers, they’ll get both.