In this Issue in Focus, we are examining the latest tools and initiatives in sustainable supply chain management. Here, guest editor Tara Norton offers her perspective on the state and direction of the field.
Through this series of articles and insights, we’re inviting companies, leading innovators and thought leaders to share how they’re managing the toughest supply chain challenges and the key trends that are emerging.
A few key questions that we’ll be exploring over the coming months include:
What does it really mean to work together to address ‘systemic issues’ in global supply chains? Lately there seem to be an increasing number of mass-scale initiatives that involve multiple businesses, civil society organizations and governments working together to solve our toughest challenges. Is this evidence that we may all finally be grasping that we all have to work together? See my recent BSR blog post on this topic*.*
Are supply chain transparency and traceability just buzz words or are they appropriate strategies, and if so, are they achievable? The Holy Grail for companies is a fully mapped supply chain, with complete understanding of where all goods and services are coming from, with the ability to quickly identify and manage the impacts of this vast network. In reality, the necessity for flexibility and resiliency, not to mention commercial competitiveness, creates incredibly complex supply chains with multiple tiers of suppliers, agents and subcontractors, across multiple countries. What tools are available to help companies gain more of a handle on the web that they’ve weaved? What are the limitations of companies working independently, and when should we be working together? See Leah Borromeo’s recent Guardian Sustainable Business blog post on the issues of traceability and transparency in the fashion supply chain.
What are the roles of suppliers and workers in this picture, and how can we tailor our approaches to engage suppliers — an enormously varied group of businesses — and workers — an enormously varied group of people? It’s like the start of a (admittedly bad) joke: What do a ready-to-wear garment factory in Bangladesh, a Kenyan flower farm and an automotive assembly plant in the Midwestern U.S. have in common? Well, very little actually … All businesses operate differently; individual managers respond to different incentives; workers have different needs, challenges and motivations. Layer on some significant industry and cultural differences, and the ideas of supplier and worker engagement start to feel insurmountable. Who’s doing this well, how are they doing it, and what value are they getting from it? For an example of an innovative practice in the area of worker engagement, see Candice McLeod’s Sustainable Brands piece on the work of LaborVoices**.**
Join the conversation! See the call for content for details on how to share your story — from improvements made to lessons learned.