Today’s guest post on supply chain sustainability comes from Mary Beth Jordan, founder and principal of MBJ Strategies LLC. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
By: Mary Beth Jordan
Companies have made great strides improving the environmental performance of their own operations, and have expanded the scope of their sustainability efforts to include the impacts and opportunities within their supply chains. Many are seeking ways to better understand the sustainability performance of their suppliers, while responding to similar requests from their customers.
These requests typically are in the form of supplier surveys and audits, but there is a lack of common expectations for supply chain sustainability. Companies are left to craft their own format for gathering data, adopt a survey or audit tool developed by an industry association, or utilize one of a growing number of the third-party supply chain sustainability data platforms. The objectives of these efforts are often similar, but format and content can be quite different.
With the leadership of 3M and P&G and support from MBJ Strategies, the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) completed a Supply Chain Sustainability Landscape Assessment in 2016 to better understand efforts across industry sectors, including commonalities/differences in requirements, best practices, and mutual recognition of other approaches. We narrowed a list of 25 organizations addressing supply chain sustainability to 10 organizations that had developed supplier surveys.
The findings are noteworthy. Of the 35 environmental, social and governance questionnaire criteria assessed, 17 criteria were addressed by eight of the ten surveys. While half of the criteria were in common, the scope of the questions and level of detail varied greatly.
There needs to be greater harmonization across the collective efforts!
In November 2016 GEMI hosted a workshop with key industry organizations to share industry-specific approaches to harmonization. Dialog led to the identification of additional issues that need to be addressed.
We are now planning to develop a high-level strategic map depicting industry-specific supply chain sustainability harmonization efforts along with several third-party data platforms to create a global picture of the breadth of activities, many of which overlap. The map will include reference to guiding principles used by the respective organizations to shape their initiatives, and illustrate connection points across efforts. Brief case studies will be developed examining why and how data in selected efforts is used for business-decision making.
Building on those findings, project participants and key industry stakeholders will work to define foundational elements that need to be addressed when engaging in supply chain sustainability evaluation activities, such as supplier audits and surveys. The goal of the GEMI effort will be to identify industry-supported, common principles that companies and broader industry stakeholder groups may use to guide the process for evaluating suppliers regarding sustainability criteria.
I’m looking forward to working with GEMI and project participants to dig into why companies collect supply chain sustainability data and what they hope to accomplish. I believe there is great value in defining basic principles which should apply to these data collection efforts. Aren’t we all after the same thing – relevant data that informs procurement decisions and a process that isn’t too cumbersome? Let’s sharpen our focus and then use this as the foundation to assess how well current data collection tools help companies achieve desired outcomes.
Mary Beth Jordan is the founder and principal of MBJ Strategies LLC.
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