Half of businesses still feel like beginners in managing sustainability in their supply chains, yet 65% of those that are more advanced say it has improved their brand reputation.
The findings were revealed in a supply chain sustainability survey of more than 1,400 professionals involved in certification across Europe, Asia and America, conducted by quality assurance and risk management firm DNV GL, with GFK Eurisko and Sedex.
Compared with a similar survey in 2014, companies now feel greater pressure to demonstrate a sustainable supply chain, with 76% saying that customers are the main drivers, and pressure also coming from direct and indirect stakeholders.
In three years' time the pressure will be greater, 72% of respondents believed.
When making their own buying decisions, 90% of respondents said that supply chain sustainability was a key factor. The top three markers of sustainability were rated as low environmental impact, health and safety at work and financial management.
The survey points to a group of leaders in the field, mainly large international companies, that are pulling ahead of the others. “They stand out as they are managing their supply chain with a strategic approach, penetrating all tiers of their value chains with a holistic and structured approach,” the survey report said.
There is a significant evolution in monitoring programmes, used particularly by leading companies, the report found. This is attributed to an expectation since the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 of brands to monitor compliance and disqualify suppliers unable to meet the requirements, as well as increased legal requirements and pressure from non-governmental organisations, on everything from mineral sourcing to climate considerations.
“Building sustainable supply chains is no longer a voluntary initiative based on unstructured attempts,” said Luca Crisciotti, CEO of DNV GL – Business Assurance. “Companies that have experienced positive effects from their actions have adopted a more systematic approach.
“Those able to tackle it in a strategic and holistic way can manage their risks better and reap benefits, while responding to legislative, stakeholder and global demands.”
The survey was conducted with the DNV GL Business Assurance customer base, covering a broad range of industries including food, transport and metals, and featuring professionals from top management, quality, certification and environmental management.