The sustainability of modern supply chains is under scrutiny from all angles, with consumers, manufacturers, processors and farmers all keen to ensure affordability and profitability. With such tensions in the chain, how can ‘the middle man’ deliver on demands of global customers and mobilise staff in the changing landscape of ever-higher stakeholder expectations?
1 – Don’t over-promise
It’s very easy to get carried away and over-promise, but sustainability targets should never be divorced from your basic business principles. Road-test promises internally before they are communicated to the outside world – especially when they are made within customer partnerships.
2 – Don’t alienate colleagues
No sustainability targets can be achieved by the sustainability team alone. We need our colleagues to deliver on our promises. However, sustainability has developed its own jargon-filled language which tends to alienate those working outside of it – take the term ‘capacity building’. While it means giving people the necessary knowledge and skills to shape their own development, I’ve had numerous instances where colleagues thought we were talking about building extra factory processing volume or similar!
3 – Don’t doubt yourself
There is a growing pressure from customers, shareholders and NGOs to comply with regulated sustainability schemes. While external certification bodies, such as FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance, act as third party auditors and provide reassurance to customers, it is often true that no-one knows your business better than yourself. We believe that in addition to third party certification, there is a role for companies to develop verification schemes that are independently audited.
4 – Don’t collect data for data’s sake
Don’t get obsessed by the metrics without knowing why you’re collecting them or how to usefully act upon them. Focus on impact, insight, outcomes and improvement, not the glory of numbers.
5 – Don’t go it alone
Companies don’t operate in isolation. There is a paradigm shift towards collaboration, and the nature of where and how to compete is being re-framed. The CEO of a global telecoms company once said that his biggest business regret was wasting over a decade and billions of pounds’ investment before he discussed sharing infrastructure such as masts with his competitors.
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