Recent years have brought new challenges that require manufacturers to rethink their priorities, with supply chain sustainability unquestionably topping the list. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks not only entice companies with the promise of sustainable value, but also demand companies to comply with related laws and regulations.
By embracing sustainability, addressing risks, and complying with regulations, manufacturers are better equipped to enhance business continuity and long-term viability, while building a positive reputation, engaging stakeholders, and driving resource efficiency at the same time. In such an environment, innovation and adaptability flourish, positioning companies to navigate challenges more effectively and maintain operational stability during disruptions.
In this blog, we expand on the supply chain sustainability section of our recent white paper, Supply chain resilience: a modular framework for sailing through disruption. Specifically, we will cover the following aspects:
Read on to explore how manufacturers can develop actionable and measurable strategies for implementing and evaluating sustainability to enhance overall performance.
Amidst economic turmoil, the pace of regulatory response is accelerating, and there is a growing public demand for ESG initiatives. To better understand these initiatives, let's take a moment to review the key components of sustainability in the supply chain, summarized in Table 1:
Table 1: Key ESG requirements
As industry rules continue to change, new regulations, behaviors, trends, and innovations are shaping the landscape. While some aspects of supply chain sustainability are universal, specific requirements may vary across countries. For instance, the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers tax reductions for carbon footprint reduction investments, and imposes fines for non-compliance. States like California have their own sustainability-related bills, such as the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act and Greenhouse gases: climate-related financial risk legislation, which require large companies to disclose greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and detail climate change-related financial risks. Europe’s regulations also mandate sustainability actions and reporting to mitigate greenwashing.
The fines and sanctions associated with these regulations emphasize the importance of ESG for supply chain resilience. Consider, for example, the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG), which demands environmental and human rights considerations for companies with 3K+ employees (1K+ from 2024) or branches in Germany. Non-compliance or failure to report required documentation results in fines (up to 2% of annual turnover), reputational damage, and exclusion from public contracts for up to three years.
Upcoming regulations, such as the UK Sustainability Disclosure Requirements and the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive further underscore the need for sustainable operations. Investing in sustainability brings various opportunities for manufacturing businesses, while neglecting ESG initiatives poses significant risks. For a comprehensive summary of these opportunities and risks, refer to Table 2:
|Areas of impact
|Results of ESG prioritization
|Results of ESG deprioritization
|Enhanced operational efficiency through reduced costs and waste
|Potential stagnation or decline in operational efficiency due to overlooking sustainability practices
|Increased competitive advantage by attracting new customers and investors
|Loss of competitive advantage as customers and investors seek environmentally and socially responsible companies
|Strengthened brand reputation, gaining trust from customers and talent
|Damaged brand reputation through public scrutiny and mistrust
|Long-term business viability
|Improved long-term business viability with strategic supply chain transparency and partnerships
|Reduced long-term business viability, becoming more vulnerable to economic shocks beyond direct control
|Compliance with regulations, leading to potential cost savings and new partnerships
|Exposure to financial penalties and sanctions for non-compliance with regulations
Table 2: The impact of prioritizing/deprioritizing ESG efforts on manufacturing businesses
The cornerstone of any supply chain resilience framework is strengthening the data foundation, and this is crucial for a specific reason. Nearly all supply chain initiatives rely on data to assess the present situation, set baselines, and prioritize actions and metrics to attain resilience goals.
In light of this, let's examine a comprehensive framework for GHG emissions:
Figure 1 illustrates a high-level overview of the GHG emission framework. To contextualize it within various manufacturing end-products' supply chains, Figure 2 highlights the discrepancy in scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions across different industries:
Considering the global distribution of supply chains and the applicability of ESG-related laws and regulations mentioned earlier, several deductions can be made:
Therefore, the baseline for sustainability initiatives should be established on the following principles:
Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sustainability requirements, let's explore the changes necessary for the manufacturing sector and the considerations organizations must bear in mind when planning their ESG-related endeavors. To effectively translate environmental and social goals into continuous improvement projects across the supplier network, the following steps and focal points are essential.
Begin by establishing a baseline for sustainability efforts and align it with ESG goals and objectives. This will enable the identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and sustainability standards applicable to your own facilities. Subsequently, extend these measures to the first-tier suppliers and beyond in the supply chain.
|1. Objectives and KPIs: Define sustainability objectives that contribute to resilience and align them with business goals. Initiate the determination of KPIs for ESG goals, encompassing areas like board commitment, product-related factors, operational aspects, carbon footprint reduction, innovation, governance, investments, and human rights protection.
|2. Readiness: Assess data gathering and analytics capabilities to support ESG reporting, adhering to chosen reporting standards such as GRI Standards, TCFD, ISO 26000, etc. Establish plans for improvement.
|3. Infrastructure: Evaluate IT/OT infrastructure, both internal and supplier-related, identify priorities and interdependencies, and create a roadmap for enhancements.
|1. Environmental: Comply with accountability measures for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate-related financial risk standards.
|2. Monitoring and visibility: Consolidate disparate systems and processes for comprehensive visibility, identifying areas for innovation. Monitor indicators related to safety protocols, fair labor practices, and governance issues, and consider using a control tower for seamless integration.
|3. Reporting: Ensure data and system readiness for ESG-related reporting and compliance, both within the organization and throughout the supply chain.
|1. Diversification: Monitor and control Scope 3 emissions to meet the demands of stakeholders, such as customers and major investors. Share ESG-related requirements and reporting procedures with suppliers, initiating supplier diversification through contract renegotiation and onboarding compliant suppliers.
|2. Accountability: Take action to improve traceability, quality control, connectivity, and reduce/recycle waste to address any identified ESG gaps.
|3. Extension: Extend visibility for emissions throughout the supply chain, incorporating relevant indirect (non-owned or controlled) GHG emissions categories into reporting.
|1. Logistics: Prioritize handling recycling, returns, and reuse within the supply chain/logistics to enhance sustainability efforts.
|2. Innovation: Improve operational efficiency based on insights gained during the digitization process.
|3. Sustainable value: Differentiate the organization by emphasizing sustainability and seizing market opportunities and strategic partnerships. Go beyond compliance through optimized scenario planning and strategic forecasting.
Table 3: Stages and milestones for mapping sustainability efforts to your use cases
As previously mentioned, supply chain models vary, and the phases and milestones in Table 3 can be adjusted based on conditions, urgency, and specific needs.
The milestones provided in the earlier table intentionally offer broad definitions, allowing manufacturers to tailor them to their company's requirements and unique circumstances.
For instance, a food manufacturer may improve operational efficiency and reduce waste through better demand forecasting and shipment planning solutions, while the automotive industry may require IoT combined with AM anomaly detection to address the same challenges. Technological solutions and key performance indicators (KPIs) for hygienic actions and tracking ESG efforts are explored in this section.
Given the growing global challenges, sustainability can become a competitive advantage while safeguarding financial resilience. However, achieving sustainability is not a uniform path and requires investment, analysis, and supplier renegotiation. Manufacturers must address challenges related to transparency, differing regulations, public scrutiny, and the ability to conduct risk assessments and respond quickly to violations.
Improving supply chain sustainability impacts various operational layers, providing significant benefits to people involved in adopting sustainability practices:
ESG regulations worldwide make compliance a mandatory path. However, achieving sustainable supply chains is not a straightforward journey; it demands upfront investments, careful analysis, and renegotiation with suppliers. Additionally, manufacturers must be aware of the following risks:
To advance toward sustainability and minimize risks, manufacturing companies worldwide must coordinate and formalize their ESG efforts, integrating them throughout their supply networks. As corporate sustainability expectations rise, compliance with regulations necessitates the swift digitization of business processes, encompassing:
To address ESG requirements in your supply chain and identify gaps and risks, consider the following questions:
Reach out to Grid Dynamics to discuss and discover the answers.