'Ride the wave of sustainability to develop supply chain value'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
21 April 2015

Organisations should “ride the wave” of sustainability and use it to “develop value through the supply chain”, a Sedex conference was told.

Sally Uren, CEO at Forum for the Future, said organisations were “haemorrhaging” economic and social value in their supply chains and should instead develop “value networks”.

Uren was speaking at the Sedex Global Responsible Sourcing Conference in London during a discussion of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), when she said supply chain transparency was the “number one trend”.

“Transparency means there’s nowhere to hide,” she said. “It’s a massive opportunity. Already there are brands with long, complex supply chains using transparency as an opportunity.

“This era of ultra transparency might allow us to drive demand for sustainable products. Ride this wave, use it as an opportunity, embrace it as a way of developing value through the supply chain.”

She added: “We need to stop thinking about leaner supply chains and think about value networks. Typically we haemorrhage economic and social value as we move through the supply chain. Drive value at every stage of the supply chain.”

Uren advised buyers to consider the SDGs and decide where their organisation could have the most impact.

“Understand those issues that are really significant for your business and concentrate your efforts in the first instance in those areas,” she said. “It’s about picking where you as an organisation have the most impact and starting there.”

Peter McAllister, director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, said it was a challenge to get firms to cooperate with their supply chains. “Most FMCGs companies think on a very short-term basis,” he said. “There’s a real challenge about how we get business to sit back and think about partnership as well. Business can be part of the solution but it’s not the whole solution.”

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