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A Short Guide to Using Value Stream Mapping to Enhance Sustainability in Supply Chains


In the fast-evolving landscape of modern business, sustainability has evolved from a trendy buzzword to a core element of strategic decision-making. Organisations now face increasing pressure from regulations, consumers and investors who demand accountability for the planet and its people. This is where Supply Value Stream Mapping (VSM) comes into play. Traditionally used in lean manufacturing to visualise and optimise the flow of materials and information required to deliver a product or service to the customer, this tool can be adapted to focus on sustainability within the triple bottom line framework (which includes environmental, social, and economic dimensions), supporting organisations to identify sustainability risks and opportunities for improvement.

Here’s a short guide on how to use Supply Chain VSM for this purpose:

Define Scope and Objectives

Scope: Define the boundaries of the supply chain you want to map, which might include suppliers, manufacturing processes, transportation, and distribution.

Objectives: Clarify your sustainability objectives related to the triple bottom line. Are you focusing on reducing carbon emissions, improving worker conditions, or enhancing economic efficiency?

Gather Data

Environmental Data: Collect data on energy use, waste, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain.

Social Data: Gather information about labour practices, community impacts, and stakeholder engagement.

Economic Data: Analyse costs related to procurement, production, distribution, and waste management.

Map the Current State

Draw the Map: Create a flow diagram that includes each step in the supply chain. Use icons or symbols to represent processes, material flows, data flows, and waste streams.

Add Data: Overlay your sustainability data on the map. For instance, indicate where high energy use or significant waste occurs, and where labour practices may need scrutiny.

Analyse the Map

Identify Hotspots: Look for areas with high environmental impact, significant social concerns, or economic inefficiencies. These are your hotspots where improvements are most needed.

Risk Identification: Pinpoint risks such as dependency on non-renewable resources, compliance with environmental regulations, or vulnerabilities in labour practices.

Opportunity Identification: Spot opportunities for reducing costs through energy efficiency, improving brand reputation by enhancing social practices, or innovating with sustainable materials.

Plan for Improvements

Brainstorm Solutions: Based on the identified risks and opportunities, brainstorm potential improvements. This might include process redesign, alternative materials, or new technologies.

Prioritise Actions: Decide which improvements to implement first based on their potential impact and feasibility.

Develop Future State Map

Design Future State: Modify the current state map to incorporate the planned improvements. This future state map should show a more sustainable flow that meets your triple bottom line objectives.

Action Plan: Develop a detailed action plan to achieve the future state, including resources needed, responsibilities, and timelines.

Implement and Monitor

Implement Changes: Roll out the improvements as planned. This might involve working closely with suppliers, changing production techniques, or investing in new technologies.

Monitor Progress: Regularly track progress against your sustainability objectives. Adjust your strategies and processes as necessary to ensure continuous improvement.

Communicate and Engage

Stakeholder Engagement: Keep stakeholders informed about your efforts and progress. Their feedback can provide valuable insights and help garner support for your initiatives.

Report on Sustainability: Regularly report on your sustainability performance. This can enhance transparency and boost your company’s reputation.


Using Supply Chain VSM with a focus on sustainability can be a means of developing a sharp, actionable strategy that strengthens the organisation's position in the market. The result is a leaner, more agile supply chain, fully equipped to tackle both current and future sustainability-related challenges. It enhances transparency across complex supply chains, enabling companies to identify and mitigate risks while capitalising on opportunities to improve their triple bottom line. This practical approach leads to more sustainable operations and can also drive innovation, collaboration, and competitive advantage.


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