While the majority of supply chain professionals would claim the supply chain activities of their businesses are being carried out in a responsible manner, new reports suggest those claims are nothing more than a charade.
In a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 4 of 5 supply chain pro’s (C-suite, board members, manager level positions) claimed that they have “responsible supply chains”, but in reality only a quarter of them work within supply chains that have actions/strategies addressing long-term issues such as child labor or climate change.
This disingenuousness is the kind of ‘sustainability superficiality’ businesses globally have been coasting by on for years. As long as execs are filling their media segments with enough buzzwords (transparency, traceability, technological advancement, sustainable action, responsible sourcing) than no one catches wind of their stench. Consumers give these kinds of brands their stamp of approval, and the cycle is continued, perpetuating corporate social bullsh•• that is masked by talk of ‘sustainability’.
Pointing to the executives of an organization, and expecting that one individual-alone should realize a responsible supply chain is an unreasonable request. Global supply chains are complex networks reliant on thousands if not millions of suppliers, and other various entities. Managing risk, compliance and governance of such scalability is an overwhelming task for any supply chain department in any organization. However, claiming “responsibility” or “sustainability” is being actualized within a supply chain’s activities when, in reality, it's quite the opposite is a breach in stakeholder trust and consumer confidence.
It has been suggested by today’s experts that digitalization, hands-on supplier development, supplier enabled innovation, and collaborative innovation are some of the key strategies to implement true sustainable/responsible action into a modern supply chain. The study by the Economist also found that, “Only 27 percent of respondents are willing to cooperate with non-competitors to raise supplier standards, and only 23 percent are willing to cooperate with competitors […]” (supplychainquarterly.com 2017).
Business’ traditional ideals of competition, profit, and success require a transformation far from traditionalism. Business must be a leader and catalyst for sustainable change within the world’s picture, and not just in press conferences otherwise the actualization of the "responsible supply chain" may never materialize.