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Editors Blog

Sustainable Supply Chain Highlights the Value of Strategic Relationships


By David Nour In an article in the March/April 2015 issue of Construction Today, Adrian Pye described four practices that make supply chains more sustainable in terms of their environmental impact. I submit that treating supply chain members as valued business partners achieves sustainability not just in the narrow environmental sense, but in broader business terms as well. Pye points out that transportation of materials by rail or waterway is more efficient than trucking. Now consider the corollary among your supply chain partners. How can you make these relationships more friction-free? Communication and collaboration are two logical places to start.

Treat suppliers as subject matter experts with a stake in your mutual outcomes. Pye suggests construction firms reduce environmental impact by avoiding disturbance to the natural ecosystem at project sites. Supply chains exist in ecosystems as well — groups of companies that already work together well. Leverage these existing relationships to increase the sustainability of your supply chain. Pye calls for choosing products that are sustainably sourced and highly durable. The same attributes are valuable in supply chain partners. “Sustainably-sourced” strategic relationships come from referrals. We are all essentially hubs and spokes in a vast network of relationships. Within your supply chain ecosystem, can you find ways to connect what I call “seekers and solvers”?  In every conversation with a supplier, find ways to discover, “What frustrates you? What do you need help with?” In other words, is this relationship a “seeker”? Then consider who in your network could step into the position of “solver” by delivering the needed value. You increase the durability of your relationships each time you help solve someone’s problem.

Pye concludes his article with a call to collaborate with your peers. Whether you find your peers by tapping the local community of supplier companies, or attending supply chain conferences for the focused content and community you’ll find there, placing yourself among peers exposes you to new supply chain ecosystems, perspectives, and potential relationships. The construction industry is now deep into educating, adopting and accelerating growth via the sustainable practices called for by the green building trend. The environmentally responsible supply chain this trend demands will be built on a foundation of strategic relationships. Your suppliers aren’t just vendors—they are your partners in your business.


1. Reduce friction in supply chain relationships with increased communication and invitations to collaborate.

2. Find supply chain “ecosystems” where companies are already adept at doing business together

3. Seek ways to connect seekers and solvers to “sustainably source” new supplier relationships and increase the durability of existing ones.

David Nour is an enterprise growth strategist and the thought leader on Relationship Economics® —the quantifiable value of business relationships. He is the author of several books including the best selling “Relationship Economics— Revised” (Wiley), “ConnectAbility” (McGraw-Hill), “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Capital” (Praeger) and “Return on Impact—Leadership Strategies for the age of Connected Relationships” (ASAE). Learn more at www.NourGroup.com. David may be reached at dnour@nourgroup.com. Have an idea for a guest blog for Construction Today? Contact alan.dorich@phoenixmediacorp.com or jim.harris@phoenixmediacorp.com.