Developing a Socially Responsible Supply Chain

Graphics showing industry interlinking with eco-friendliness

Whether your specialty is manufacturing, moving product, or analyzing areas for cost savings, you’re already well aware of the importance of corporate social responsibility. Building a strong triple bottom line — good for people, the planet, and profit — has become increasingly important as the modern consumer comes to expect more from shopping than good prices.

So how can today’s supply chains embrace — and execute — effective social responsibility initiatives for the duration of a product’s life cycle?

Good With a Capital “G”

Remaining competitive and nimble in today’s ever-evolving, tech-heavy landscape is about more than just high-quality products or services. With the luxury of choice combined with quick, easy access to information, the overall demand for “good” products is driving today’s purchasing patterns.

Increasingly, consumers aren’t willing to compromise: They want local business partners, they want environmentally friendly products, and they want to put their money toward companies and products backed by real values.

The Building Blocks of Social Responsibility

With a 24-hour news cycle, instant access to a world of valuable information, and emerging technologies like blockchain tracking it all, irresponsible supply chain practices can ruin brand reputations.

But following a few essential principles can help in building a socially responsible supply chain strategy.

Streamline and simplify.

While adding subcontractors and switching around suppliers might cut down on immediate costs, the added complexities can increase opportunities for risk and decrease visibility.

Always consider the ethical impact.

Making the socially responsible choice affects the supply chain at every step, with every decision — not just the high-level or well-publicized ones.

Make a point of your principles.

Collaborations are key to good business, but partners need to be able to comply with your principles and business ethics. Emphasize your expectations; be clear and hold all parties responsible for doing the work you require and operating with the core values you’ve established.

Take time to assess the smaller parts of the big picture.

Even a simple supply chain often consists of many steps, and it can be easy to become removed from the activities you don’t oversee or observe yourself. Tune into the processes occurring at all levels. Can you be proud of how your system works?

Flex your power — for good.

Money makes an impact, and spending with intention gives your purchasing plan a strong social presence. Can you improve working conditions or contribute to surrounding communities through your work?

Get the word out.

While a socially responsible supply chain plan shouldn’t be constructed solely for public relations purposes, it’s still important for your people to know what’s happening. Communicate clearly with your customers and stakeholders so that they can fully understand just what type of business they’re supporting.

Real-Life Examples: Ikea’s Social Responsibility Efforts

As an example of social responsibility in the contemporary supply chain, it may be helpful to look to Ikea. The trendsetting global powerhouse has committed to becoming carbon positive, investing in clean electric delivery tools to reach zero-emissions last-mile delivery goals, and has also developed location strategies that encourage customers to walk or bike to stores.

And ultimately, Ikea aspires to create a circular system — ideally, a zero-impact supply chain model, offering customers the opportunity to fully recycle or resell any product at the end of its life. No waste, no problem.


Image Credit: Digital Saint/

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