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The Global State of Supply Chain Sustainability – based on the CDP Global Supply Chain report 2021

Alis Hinrichsen
Alis Sindbjerg
Hinrichsen
Thought Leader & Strategic Advisor

Around two thirds of all Nordic companies are working actively (albeit to varying degrees) with sustainability, Supply Chain sustainability, world goals, climate, etc. (1). Thus, many companies are still yet to adopt the sustainability agenda fully. There can be many reasons for this. It has not yet dawned on everyone that sustainability is here to stay. 

What barriers are there in companies? Some companies are afraid of being accused of and caught out greenwashing. Some people mistakenly think they have to work with the entire sustainability agenda – e.g., all 17 UN sustainability goals at once. But they should not. They only need to work with the sustainability goals relevant to their business. Some also think it is very expensive. But sustainability is an essential investment in the future of the company. In attracting and retaining employees in a time of significant labor shortages, meeting current and future legal requirements, etc. It is timely care.

Understand the planetary boundaries 

We must learn to understand the planetary boundaries of our Supply Chains. The planetary boundaries provide us with a quantitative framework within which humanity can continue to evolve and thrive in future generations.

It may sound a bit flippant to use the term “planetary boundaries,” but it is an expression of the three environmental crises unfolding; temperature rises, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Awareness and understanding of the planetary framework are central to ensuring the right decisions.

Understanding the effect of a company’s Supply Chain on the planetary framework requires data-driven work and analysis. One must understand the entire value chain’s CO2 emissions, water consumption, and waste volumes. In other words, one must understand sustainability in a broader sense.

Cascading sustainability down through the Supply Chain

In 2022 Optilon will publish a report based on a study about how the surveyed companies work to cascade green, sustainable initiatives down through their Supply Chains at a Nordic level.

A study on a more global level, ‘Engaging the chain: Driving speed and scale, CDP Global Supply Chain report 2021’, shows that companies often restrict their work with sustainability to their part of the Supply Chain. Given that emissions outside one’s own Supply Chain are measured to be more than 11 times as large as one’s own emissions, it’s imperative to focus on the entire value chain.

It is very difficult to reach all the way out. The figures show that 71% of the companies in the survey work with scope 1 emissions, 55% work with scope 2, and 20% work with scope 3. In other words – the companies have so far only worked with a small part of the total emissions. (2)

The goals must be science based

One of the major drivers is that financial institutions and investors are increasingly focused on how companies manage their environmental risks and opportunities. In other words, how they respect the planetary framework.

It is no longer enough to set ambitions and goals that are not science based. Increasingly companies are joining the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTI). The fact that so many companies embrace the SBTI puts increasing pressure on the companies that have chosen not to go in this direction. Basically, the initiative is about setting Science Based Targets (SBT) that are in line with a 1.5° future (keeping total global warming below 1.5° temperature rise. Of the companies surveyed, 2.5% have Science Based Targets in place (2).

The challenge is that it can often take many years to set the right goals and take the right actions. Therefore, there is also a need for more people to commit to SBT and start work now – and not tomorrow.

Need for speed and scaling of supplier collaboration

Out of 11,457 companies surveyed, 28% say that they have launched “low carbon” initiatives (2). To accelerate the companies’ focus on sustainability in Supply Chains, there is still a need to develop new procurement processes, train purchasers, and create greater collaboration with suppliers and stakeholders (the supply ecosystem). When it comes to utilizing technology, it is about finding solutions for setting better goals and being able to follow up on them. One possibility is to use simulation tools (e.g., digital twin solutions) to identify effective options for reducing emissions in a complex environment at a detailed level.

More and more companies are looking at their suppliers’ data as part of their environmental performance. It turns out that 28% of suppliers have launched plans for the green transformation, so there is enormous potential. 38% have launched initiatives with their suppliers. 62% have thus far not started work with their suppliers, which is exacerbated by the lack of suitable measurement results (2).

90% of the companies surveyed are prepared to work to a much greater extent with their suppliers, and 35% are ready to incorporate performance targets in their procurement processes or supplier Code of Conduct (2).

Life cycle analyzes are important

66% of the companies surveyed answered that life cycle analysis is one of the most essential tools for promoting the green agenda. Today, only 2% of respondents can report their emissions at the product level. Raising this level requires standards, the development of new methods, data exchange with suppliers and partners, and technologies that can help support companies (2).

In summary, it can be concluded that many companies have not yet initiated the change in their Supply Chain that is needed to lift us out of the three environmental crises. As Steen M. Andersen (1) points out in Børsen, there is a growing awareness in Denmark of the UN’s world goals, and there is communication about the companies’ focus on the various world goals, but this is not yet translated into, Science Based Targets. There is still a need to think about the entire supply ecosystem, develop new procurement processes, train purchasers and create greater collaboration with suppliers and stakeholders.

Sources:

(1) Børsen Bæredygtig, Bæredygtighed og erhvervslivet – hvad holder nogle tilbage, Af Steen M. Andersen, Direktør, FCG Global Goals, Tuesday, March 1, 2022 https://borsen.dk/nyheder/baeredygtig/baeredygtig-debat/baeredygtighed-og-erhvervslivet-hvad-holder-nogle-tilbage
(2) Engaging the chain: Driving speed and scale, CDP Global Supply Chain report 2021, (February 2022) https://cdn.cdp.net/cdp-production/cms/reports/documents/000/004/811/original/CDP_Supply_Chain_Report_Changing_the_Chain.pdf?1575882630

Facts:

Scope 1: Direct emissions due to vehicles, fuel consumption, and / or chemical leakage

Scope 2: Indirect emissions due to purchased electricity, cooling, heating, and / or steam

Scope 3: Other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain and are not already included in scope 2 (such as emissions from purchased goods and services, transport, or business travel)

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