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Andrew ErnestOperations Associate, FourKites

Last year, CSCMP partnered with MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL) to develop the State of Supply Chain Sustainability Report. The goal was to provide an overview of how sustainability is impacting the way companies operate across the globe, and give supply chain professionals a glimpse into what the future of supply chain sustainability might look like. With the rapidly evolving field of supply chain sustainability, MIT CTL and CSCMP have opted to conduct the survey again this year, which we encourage all supply chain professionals to take by Tuesday, November 10!

FourKites’ Andrew Ernest recently sat down with Alexis Bateman, Director of MIT Sustainable Supply Chains at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics to discuss unexpected findings from last year’s survey, how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted supply chain sustainability and more!

What were the biggest trends from last year’s survey? Were there any surprises?

One of the key learnings from last year’s survey was that social issues – related to human rights protections around child or forced labor – were reported as being very critical or zero-tolerance goals for many organizations. Environmental issues were also reported as being important, but came secondary to social issues, at least when it came to setting goals. For investment, we saw an interesting shift; while social issues were valued highly as goals, they were not being significantly invested in through financial and human resources. Investment for environmental goals, on the other hand, closely matched their valuation of their goals.

The other very interesting learning was that firms are feeling pressure to be more sustainable from many sources, not just the age-old threat of the green consumer or the campaigning NGO. In fact, 46% of respondents said their firms felt pressure, and that pressure was diffuse across sources ranging from media, executives, NGOs, consumers and government.

How has the conversation around supply chain sustainability evolved throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on, resulting in severe economic detriment, certain key experts in the field suggest that sustainability would take a backseat until we begin to see economic recovery. However, we haven’t really seen this to be true (yet). In some cases, companies are doubling down on sustainability across the board. In others, key practices in sustainability that allowed businesses to be even more resilient during the pandemic, including greater supply chain visibility, close supplier relationships, and supply chain circularity, etc. I do see sustainability evolving in terms of an increasing focus on social and labor issues – particularly the imperative to protect and value the frontline workers that we rely on to keep supply chains up and running.

How can shippers, carriers, and 3PLs use the data from this survey to inform their business decisions?

We feel that supply chain professionals from all sectors can use the findings from this survey to serve as a solid entry point into supply chain sustainability. This topic is so big and multi-faceted that new entrants to the field may feel overwhelmed or discouraged about where to start. This report gives a baseline of understanding across a number of issues, levels of adoption in industries, and key trends that supply chain professionals can use as a starting point and for level-setting in their organizations.

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FourKites is pleased to support MIT CTL and CSCMP’s effort to gauge the State of Supply Chain Sustainability. Please fill out the survey at the following link by November 10th to help inform this industry report. As a benefit of completing the survey, you will receive last year’s report, you’ll be registered to participate in an exclusive webinar, as well as be entered for a drawing for a swag bag. The survey should take 10 minutes or less and is completely anonymous.

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