25 July 2008 | Paul Snell
Collaboration with vendors and competitors will be the most effective way of tackling sustainability issues in the supply chain.
But it is being hampered by a lack of trust and buyers' unwillingness to work with competitors and partners.
A study of 56 purchasing and supply chain directors carried out by The Future Laboratory for technology firm Oracle, found the largest proportion of those surveyed, 36 per cent, thought collaboration would be the most effective way of creating a sustainable supply chain, ahead of legislation, technology and consumer and investor pressure.
But only 7 per cent wanted to explore advanced collaboration with suppliers and competitors. The study said buyers should question where competitive edge really comes from in their supply chain - is it their product or how they transport it?
There was also evidence firms are "cherry-picking" elements of sustainability to work on. "As people have started to look at opportunities, they are picking out the easy things to do. But the easy things are not necessarily the right things," said Dave Food, business development director at Oracle.
The study also said there was a need for a consistent set of standards for reporting. "Lots of people think they are in control of their supply chain, but even one or two links above, they don't know how sustainable that part of the supply chain is," said Food.
Nigel Montgomery, research director at AMR Research, believes this is not helped by the fact many suppliers are just estimating. "40 per cent of the information that goes into bids is based on guesswork, because in the short amount of time suppliers need to respond to a bid they don't actually know the answer."
The study also found there would be increased interest in local manufacturing, supply chain controllers, who cover everything from sourcing to distribution, and more use of "slowgistics", transport via canal and rail.