Over the past year, the nonprofit business association Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has published several excellent reports about a variety of today’s hot-button sustainability topics, ranging from climate change and corporate environmental strategy to CSR and fractal dynamics.
I’m particularly interested in BSR’s outlook on supply chain management, and I’d like to draw your attention to a report my firm Aravo worked on with them “Perspectives on Information Management in Sustainable Supply Chains.”
After a thoughtful and thorough discussion of both the definition of a sustainable supply chain and the drivers for sustainable supply chain management, the report deep-dives into the fundamental challenge facing businesses today: how to effectively manage the enormous amount of activities and information generated by complex, global supply chains?
The great thing about BSR’s reports is that they do more than just define complicated issues and ask relevant questions. They also provide insight regarding solutions and offer guidance that can help move a company past “navel-gazing” and into action.
With regard to the challenge of managing information in sustainable supply chains, the BSR report breaks down the process into three distinct phases:
• Phase I: Gain Transparency
• Phase II: Communicate
• Phase III: Collaborate and Build Capacity
In Phase I, a company gathers all basic supply chain data, and then installs a system that insures ongoing collection, management and reporting of this data. Completion of this phase results in prioritization of resources, a better understanding of risks throughout the supply chain, and creation of efficiencies and process control for both procurement and sustainability departments.
A company in Phase II is able to communicate about sustainability issues throughout the entire supply chain. The goal for this phase is for suppliers to manage their compliance pro-actively while effectively communicating up and down the supply chain to support efficient business practices and risk management.
In Phase III, a company goes beyond monitoring to actually create sustainable improvements in working conditions throughout the supply chain. This collaboration phase involves measuring the ROI from supplier capability-building programs, then taking these pilot programs to scale. It also involves facilitating collaboration at the local level, between the company, its suppliers, governments, and communities.
Of course, strategies for sustainable supply chain management will vary somewhat from industry to industry. However, every business stands to benefit by addressing the basic needs of transparency, communication, and collaboration. Give the report a read, I think you’ll find it very worthwhile.