Gartner’s decision this year, to add corporate social responsibility to its criteria for judging the world’s top 25 supply chain organisations is a clear indication that CSR has become much more than a matter of meeting environmental and ethical standards.

In short, a socially responsible supply chain is requisite for commercial survival and to thrive, companies must factor social, environmental, and ethical priorities into plans for profitability and growth.

Regardless of opinion on the matter, corporate social responsibility has risen to demand inclusion in supply chain strategy. Procurement, logistics, and other functional leaders must prioritise it as a management imperative, not just for 2017, but for the remainder of this decade and into the next.


What Makes a Socially Responsible Supply Chain?

The CSR concept has evolved into a principle belief that business must benefit society in ways extending far beyond the provision of products, services and jobs. Corporate social responsibility has become complex, its scope broadening from one of environmental concern to encapsulate human rights and societal impact.

To compound this complexity, observers expect CSR to be clearly evident not just within an organisation, but across its entire network of suppliers, stakeholders, and business partnerships.

It’s no small or easy task to achieve, but CSR strategy development can be simplified by breaking it down into components, and then finding the most urgent and impactful areas within each component to focus on.

As an introduction to meeting the challenge of supply chain social responsibility, let’s take a look at the main elements to consider.

Environmental Responsibility:

This is really where the idea of corporate social responsibility began and despite the broadened scope of the CSR concept, is just as important today as when concerns first arose about industry’s impact on climate change and sustainability of natural resources.

This is also the area which most directly impacts performance in the socially responsible supply chain—typically for the better. Carefully chosen initiatives can reduce the carbon footprint of your supply chain while at the same time, enabling it to operate at greater efficiency and less cost.

Ethical Responsibility:

How confident are you, that your suppliers, their suppliers, and their suppliers, wherever they may be located, are not…

  • Engaging in slave or child labour?
  • Placing people in unsafe or unhealthy working conditions?
  • Using questionable materials/processes in the production and supply of your orders?

While tackling this element of corporate social responsibility may not directly drive financial or operational performance gains, losses incurred through its neglect can be very direct and very bad for business.

Moreover, any reticence to disclose information about suppliers and sources is increasingly seen to cast doubt on a company’s responsibility towards diligence.

In short, if you don’t vet your suppliers’ ethics and show willing to disclose your findings, you risk harm to your brand and your company’s reputation, even if your internal operations are squeaky clean.

Societal Responsibility:

This is perhaps the least tangible theatre of corporate social responsibility, but is nevertheless one which impacts the public perception of your company.

Furthermore, if done right, efforts in this theatre, which includes workforce welfare and development and input into wider community projects, can yield direct benefits to your organisation, especially in human resource terms—think employee health, engagement, and retention.


Put Some Peer Power into Your CSR Plans for 2017

If your company is already well on the road to best-in-class credentials, your peers can surely use your insights into the CSR elements we’ve touched on here. If your company hasn’t paid CSR too much mind to date, peer support can help you gain traction.

Regardless of your company’s overall maturity in the CSR arena, I’d be surprised if you don’t have some questions, thoughts, and ideas about the socially responsible supply chain and how to support its development.

Few of us are true experts in what is still an emerging, evolving supply chain trend, so CSR strategy development is ripe for advancement through the pooling of executive experience and wisdom.

The Supply Chain Leaders Boardroom offers the perfect environment for sharing and gaining corporate social responsibility knowledge, both with your peers and with specialist experts who know the landscape. If CSR is on your supply chain agenda for 2017 (and frankly, it should be), why not sign up now and secure your place at the boardroom table?


Share This