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Executive Report: Sustainable Global Supply Chains

Designed for executives and senior supply chain, purchasing and sustainability managers, NBS presents a 3-step framework for sustainable supply chains.

Understand and improve your firm’s impacts – all the way up the value chain.

Measuring your firm’s immediate impacts is one thing, but what happens when stakeholder expect companies to take responsibility for their entire supply chain?

Managing Sustainable Global Supply Chains: Framework and Best Practices synthesizes 25 years of research to outline how firms can understand, track, and improve the social and environmental impacts of organizations with which they do business. It contains a baseline and best practice framework complete with practices at all stages of supplier engagement.

Supply Chains Can Help or Hinder Sustainability

Supply chains, which are more complex and global than ever before, are full of both risks and opportunities. The risks range from inconsistent or poor quality to supply disruptions to health and safety concerns to corruption. Relevant environmental issues typically include waste and emissions, but may extend to recycling and product design.

Firms face pressure to adopt sustainable supply chain practices from a number of stakeholders. The top sources as identified in the body of research are consumers, government, the general public, and activists. So how can firms assess the risks and take action?

3-Step Framework for Supply Chain Sustainability

Step 1: Identify your motivators.

Motivations typically come from one or more of five sources: customers, compliance, costs, competitive advantage, or conscience. Understanding which of these are most important can help determine where to focus your efforts. The most commonly-cited motivators are consumers, and the figure below shows the percentage of the time each was cited in the research.

Step 2: Assess your levers for change.

A number of key levers can help firms on their journey toward a sustainable supply chain. Which of these are working in your favour? Which are absent – meaning they might impede your progress in certain areas?

Step 3: Improve your supply chain practices.

Four practices form the basis for building sustainable supply chains:

  1. Establishing a Code of Conduct;

  2. Obtaining Third-Party Certifications;

  3. Selecting Suppliers; and

  4. Monitoring Suppliers.

We consider these the ‘baseline practices’ that all organizations should, at a minimum, embrace.

However, the ‘best practices’ can be developed from the baseline, and represent an approach focused on development, learning and consultation. Depending on your company’s power, relationships, resources and needs, you may be in a position to pursue the ‘next level’ of practices – for instance, going beyond monitoring and auditing to build in supplier development processes that result in lower supplier turnover, stronger relationships and ultimately better quality and transparency.

Who Should Read the Report

Designed for executives and senior supply chain, purchasing and sustainability managers, this report presents frameworks for developing competitive and sustainable global supply chains.

Executives responsible for their brand and communication with key stakeholders can use this research to identify opportunities to increase transparency, improve operations, and, ultimately, gain credibility by embracing supply chain sustainability.

Senior supply chain and purchasing managers can use this report to improve decision-making related to sourcing, supply chain operations, and much more.

The research is particularly relevant for firms in the logistics industry.

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  • NBS

    The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) is a non-profit advancing sustainable development to build a fairer and more environmentally sound future. We aim to improve business practice by facilitating knowledge sharing across an international community of business leaders, scholars, students and policy makers. With these stakeholders, we co-create high-quality content that enables practical action. Our content focuses on 6 critical sustainability themes, from climate change to social justice.

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