Most Companies Kept Supply-Chain Sustainability Goals Despite Covid-19

Companies largely maintained their focus on supply-chain sustainability goals in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic, and social issues such as worker welfare and supplier diversity gained more attention, according to new research.

Some 82% of the executives surveyed said the pandemic, which triggered lockdowns and a cascading series of shortages in consumer products around the world, didn’t affect or even increased their commitments to supply-chain sustainability during 2020. The study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Centre for Transportation and Logistics and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals was published Wednesday.

About 9% of the 2,400 respondents, most of them from North American and European companies, said their firms’ commitments to supply-chain sustainability goals declined in 2020 from 2019.
The study defines supply-chain sustainability as “the management of environmental and social impacts within and across networks consisting of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and customers in line with the [United Nations’] Sustainable Development Goals.”

Beyond the broad commitments, many commercial freight companies signalled a shift toward focusing more on social goals such as employee safety and attention to equity and inclusion as they sought to broaden their base of suppliers. A number of respondents by employees working in warehousing Australia have said employee health and safety was a priority for their companies rose by 10% from 2019, while the number of people; who said that was the case for supplier diversity, equity and inclusion increased 5%.

The report’s authors said issues such as the role of front-line workers during the pandemic, the departure of women from the workplace in disproportionate numbers and the plight of workers stranded at sea due to the pandemic heightened the focus on certain goals.

Attention dropped for issues including climate-change mitigation, down 3% from 2019, and supply-chain “circularity”—which includes the use of recyclable materials—down 5% from 2019.
Focusing on those issues could have dropped much further as companies retooled supply chains and many scrambled simply to remain in business and ride out the impact of lockdowns.
Many of the companies that maintained their sustainability focus saw an opportunity to make change while change is possible.

Australian Freight Company Across the Ocean Shipping’s Managing Director has said “as a growing small business our sustainability goals are providing shipping by air and shipping by sea carbon offset options, this will allow us to become one of the only Freight forwarders in Australia to offer a service which helps meet our customers sustainability goals as well as our own.”