A study released by Networks For Business Sustainability in partnership with University of Warwick and University of Bath titled Managing Sustainable Global Supply Chains assessed research from over the past 25 years to examine the driving forces behind why and how organizations implement sustainable supply chains.
Surprisingly, the most prevalent motivation for companies to build a sustainable supply chain is not risk management, but rather a desire to maintain or attract new customers (accounting for 40% of the motivation expressed in the previous research, whereby risk management accounts for only 19%).
The most significant pressure to encourage company adoption of international sustainable supply chain management it comes almost equally from consumers, government legislation, societal concern and NGOs.
The report assess the current organizational practices and models for sustainable supply chain management based on the previous research – expect (i.e. codes of conduct), select, monitor (i.e. assessments/audits), reject – but that these practices are often approached in ways that undermine supplier relationships or fail to provide suppliers with support.
The authors argue that these practices should incorporate coordinated industry action and supplier specific development (i.e .training, investment) in order for them to be successful. Sector-specific actions which promote standards for compliance in sustainability “creates a competitive level playing field through which incentives for unsustainable supply chain management are reduced.” Finally, the research suggests that most important aspect to the development of sustainable supply chain solutions and to successfully reduce risk is to develop a supportive and mutually trusting approach when engaging with suppliers. Of course, developing such practices can be time-intensive, but this is the direction in which “best practices” for sustainable supply chain management are heading.