I recently returned from a Sustainability in Supply Chain conference, continuing to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing industry in general and how organizations are tackling the issues within their respective supply chains. Attendees from both large and small corporations, trade associations, and non-profits gathered to share the challenges faced within supply chains and how they have been addressing those challenges. My general takeaways were as follows:
Building on these learnings, it was clear that there were specific steps organizations were taking to tackle these issues head on.
First, conduct an internal Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory. Start gathering an inventory of your emissions to understand the impacts across your supply chain. Start with Scope 1, then Scope 2 and at least identify Scope 3 emissions. It is clear Scope 3 emissions account for the most emissions within a supply chain but they are also proving to be the most difficult to measure and calculate. There are several tools (software) that can enable this analysis to reduce human error, enhance reporting capabilities and allow for clarity on trade-offs for potentially competing ESG objectives. Completing this initial inventory allows you to look into your own operations and start defining your goals, both short- and long-term.
Second, invest in supplier engagement. This area is becoming increasingly important as businesses are collaborating up and down the value chain to provide consumers with a product or service. Developing transparent relationships, outlining expectations early and working together to jointly develop solutions is the most effective approach to enabling sustainable practices. Further, rather than trying to address your entire supplier base at one time, segmenting your suppliers can be helpful in allowing you to focus efforts on a subset (by category, by spend, etc.). There were several cases where suppliers, once engaged effectively and empowered, generated game-changing solutions for their partner organization. Removing barriers and bureaucratic constraints breeds innovation creating real win-win scenarios in these relationships (this also means opening up procurement practices to allow for a more diverse network of suppliers to participate which has proven to provide flexibility and innovative solutions).
Lastly, there was humility and frustration expressed with regards to some of the fragmented systems and frameworks out there. At times it felt like alphabet soup with so many different frameworks/reporting standards (GRI – Global Reporting Initiative, SASB – Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, SBTi – Science Based Targets initiative, TCFD – Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, CDP – Carbon Disclosure Project, SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals, etc.) and indecision around a universal methodology which can feel paralyzing. Being consistent is most important considering many of the fundamentals are shared. And, remember, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. Stay focused and leverage external resources to help when you need it.
—Kira Bilecky, St. Onge Company