Everyone is “going green” these days. Concern for the environment sparked “green” businesses, but skyrocketing fuel prices have ignited those efforts, pushing environmental practices ever more quickly toward sustainability.

What is sustainability? Sustainability takes environmentally-friendly practices to the next level. It improves upon the protection and husbandry of the world’s natural resources by utilizing processes that reclaim and reuse the products and byproducts of industry. Production comes full-circle: resources are used to create products which are then used and, at the end of their life cycle, recovered and reused to create new products.  The ultimate goal of sustainability is to complete the cycle without creating unusable byproducts or waste and without polluting the environment.

Supply Chain Sustainability and Green Sustainable Supply Chain are the coming watchwords in the material handling and logistics industries, said Patrick Penfield of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management in a 2007 article for On the MHove, a MHIA publication. Growing concern over environmental pollution and dwindling natural resources are driving the push for sustainability.  “Humankind has inherited a 3.8 billion per year store of natural capital. At present rates of use and degradation, there will be little left by the end of the next century,” authors of the book Natural Capitalism warned in 1999. Less than a decade later, scientists are concerned that the crisis point could be reached far sooner.

Despite the Bush administration’s failure to embrace global environmental efforts (and there are many valid arguments on both sides of that issue), European legislation restricting pollution and hazardous substances presage the future. Experts predict that the world will be unable to support its populace if the global community — including the U.S., China, Brazil, India and developing countries around the world — does not embrace environmental protection and work quickly to implement sustainable industry.

Next time: Supply Chain Sustainability