Supply chain

Sustainable supply chains are pivotal in shaping a more responsible and resilient future. Supply chains are the arteries of global commerce, connecting businesses, consumers, and communities worldwide. To safeguard the environment, support social well-being, and ensure robust corporate governance, organizations are turning more to ESG in supply chains.


What does it mean to have a sustainable supply chain?

Sustainable supply chains encompass a range of objectives established by organizations to drive sustainability throughout their supply chain operations. These targets are not just about business performance; they reflect a commitment to environmental responsibility, social equity, and ethical governance. ESG supply chain goals cover a spectrum of initiatives designed to enhance sustainability, reduce environmental impact, and support communities.

Supply Chain Sustainability targets

Companies are setting diverse targets to improve ESG in supply chains. Sustainability in supply chain examples include:

  1. Carbon Reduction: Setting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the supply chain. This involves setting measurable targets for cleaner energy sources, optimizing logistics, and minimizing carbon-intensive practices. This type of carbon reduction includes  Scope 3 emissions, which are not produced by the company itself and are part of the wider value chain. 

Example: A company may set a target to reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain by 30% within the next five years.

  1. Circular Economy: Committing to circular supply chain practices that reduce waste and promote recycling. Targets may include setting measurable goals to increase the use of recycled materials and designing products for easier disassembly and recycling.
    Example: A company aims to use 50% recycled materials in our product packaging by 2025.
  2. Ethical Sourcing: Ensuring that suppliers adhere to ethical and responsible sourcing practices, including labor rights, fair wages, and ethical working conditions. Some larger companies are increasingly looking to help their suppliers in setting sustainability strategies, as supplies are often SMEs. Additionally, some companies have in-house standards for suppliers (i.e. an on-site cafe), which tend to be more difficult to benchmark.
    Example: A company is dedicated to ethical sourcing practices and ensuring fair treatment for all workers in our supply chain.
  3. Diversity and Inclusion: Setting targets to promote diversity and inclusion within the supply chain workforce, including gender and ethnic diversity, and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups.
    Example: A company aims to increase the representation of underrepresented groups by 20%, providing equal opportunities for individuals of different genders and ethnic backgrounds.
  4. Responsible Packaging:Companies should set specific targets to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials and optimize packaging designs to minimize waste.
    Example: A company set targets to reduce single-use plastic in our packaging by 25% over the next three years.


Other Supply Chain Sustainability initiatives

Not every initiative in this area is subject to an improvement target. Some are simply seen as a minimum requirement (human rights compliance) or too localised (community engagement) to set targets around:

  1. Supply Chain Resilience: Enhancing supply chain resilience through risk assessments, redundancy planning, and scenario analysis to mitigate disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic has made supply chain resilience more critical.
    Example: A company conducts thorough risk assessments, implementing redundancy plans, and performing scenario analysis to identify potential disruptions.
  2. Human Rights Compliance: Ensuring that suppliers uphold human rights standards, with targets related to  audits, transparency, and corrective actions.
    Example: A company is committed to upholding human rights standards across the supply chain. This involves regular audits, transparent reporting, and prompt corrective actions to address any identified violations. 
  3. Local Community Engagement: Supporting local communities in the regions where the supply chain operates, with targets focused on community development and well-being.
    Example: A company sets targets including initiatives for community development, job creation, and overall well-being, contributing to the sustainable growth of the regions they serve.”
Supply chain

Why Supply Chain ESG Targets Matter

The importance of supply chain ESG targets must be balanced. They are essential for several reasons, including:

  • Environmental Stewardship: Sustainable supply chain practices reduce the environmental impact of operations, minimizing resource consumption and waste.
  • Social Responsibility: Ethical supply chain management fosters better labor conditions, social equity, and community support.
  • Risk Mitigation: Robust supply chain ESG targets help organizations identify and mitigate risks, ensuring business continuity in the face of challenges.
  • Brand Reputation: Demonstrating a commitment to responsible supply chain management enhances a company’s reputation with customers, investors, and stakeholders.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many regions have strict regulations concerning supply chain practices. Meeting supply chain ESG targets ensures adherence to these regulations. One major impact on supply chain regulation is the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which requires reporting on human rights and environmental impacts.

Setting and Achieving Supply Chain ESG Targets


To effectively implement and achieve supply chain ESG targets, organizations should follow a systematic approach:

  1. Assessment: Start with a comprehensive assessment of your supply chain, identifying areas where ESG improvements are needed.
  2. Goal Setting: Establish specific, measurable, and time-bound supply chain ESG targets that align with your ESG strategies and business objectives.
  3. Collaboration: Engage with suppliers, partners, and stakeholders to drive ESG initiatives throughout the supply chain.
  4. Monitoring and Reporting: Regularly monitor and report on supply chain ESG progress to demonstrate transparency and commitment.
  5. Certifications and External Validation: Seek certifications or external validation from organizations like the Responsible Business Alliance to confirm the legitimacy of your supply chain ESG efforts.

Benchmarking Supply Chain ESG Targets

Benchmarking your supply chain ESG targets is crucial for tracking progress and staying competitive. This process involves defining objectives, gathering data, identifying key performance indicators, assessing peer companies, and establishing baseline and target metrics. Elevate your sustainability efforts by exploring the ESGRoadmap Supply Chain Goals Tool. Sign up for a free trial today and embark on a journey towards a more sustainable and responsible supply chain.

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