Global Supply Chains and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: A relationship of reciprocity.

Sustainable Business Development is rapidly becoming a top priority for corporations of all sizes, from every corner of the world.

UN’s SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) were agreed upon September 2015 and took effect on January 1st of 2016. There are 17 SDG’s that have 169 underlying targets in order to build a better understanding within the global business marketplace, surrounding the importance of conducting business, with the sustainability of our world in mind.

The United Nation’s have called upon businesses in particular to lead the partnering their operations and strategies with the UN’s sustainability goals, in an effort to build a collaboratively sustainable future. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations challenged business stating, “Companies can contribute through their core activities, and we ask companies everywhere to assess their impact, set ambitious goals and communicate transparently about the results” (UN 2017).

Source: Youtube

Ban Ki-moon’s plea to business globally to increase transparency, and positive impact through their core activities, is music to our ears at the Kodiak Community. Sustainability trends have been relevant for supply chain trends and goals for quite some time now. This topic has, too, been an undertone of focus for all of our literature.

The SDG’s are lighting a fire under the asses of businesses globally and it seems as if there is plenty more wood to toss on the flames.

Changes will be coming in the future of business’ operations and strategies in order to live up to the UN’s hopes and wishes. It can be hypothesized with strong conviction that the SDG’s can be impacted significantly by the actions of global supply chains.

The relationship is one of reciprocity. The SDG’s serve as a guideline for attaining sustainable business development in supply chain operations. And the sustainable development, of supply chain activities, actualizes/operationalizes the SDG’s on a large scale.

Let’s begin by understanding how supply chain operations can further the rhetoric of SDG’s.

What goals can be impacted?

Supply chain operations and strategies, especially in globally visible and operational corporations, can certainly have positive impact by living up to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.

The SDG’s that can be most directly impacted are:

UN SDG #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

By governing supply chain operations, individual suppliers and clusters of suppliers, businesses are able to aid the elimination of unlawful or unruly work conditions, worker rights, human rights and/or child labor.

UN SDG #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Supply chains can work together with suppliers to ensure the creation of collaborative innovation. Finding innovative solutions to the issues surrounding sustainable business practices together with suppliers builds parallel goals and an infrastructure for a new standard of supply chain operation.

In regards to the current supply chain trends, digitization of the supply chain is, too, furthering the goal of innovating and building a strong infrastructure for core supply chain activities. Most software solutions, AI, automation, IoT and Blockchain technologies that have started to be utilized, or will be utilized in the coming years, hold a strong potential for furthering sustainability initiatives in supply chain operation.

Source: SCM World Future of Supply Chain Survey

UN SDG #12: Responsible Production and Consumption

Increasing transparency and traceability of production has been a trending demand of stakeholders from the brands they support and consume. Once again, governance and compliance of supplier relationships and operations can ensure that the development of responsible production takes place.

Purchasing entities must take on the role of the governing body to assure that their supply chains are functioning in line with their international standards, country standards and collaborative standards. To that same effect, engagement in supplier relationships and the development/education of suppliers can aid in developing parallel goals for sustainability with suppliers. This requires mutual understanding and inclusivity by both parties.

UN SDG #13: Climate Action

Reducing climate impact in supply chain activities is a must, and should be a vital portion of all businesses’ cultural rhetoric. Developing a strong understanding for the importance of positive climate impact should start internally, and permeate to external bodies that are involved in supply chain activities. The main points of which can return sustainable impact are: the reduction of GHG emissions, over expenditure of water and electricity.

UN SDG #14 and 15: Life Below Water and Life On Land

Sustainable supply chain action would clearly impact goals 14 and 15 both directly and indirectly. The main industries that would need development in order to parallel working towards the UN’s goals for business are fishing and agriculture. Both of these industries should be ones of organic production, and the assurance of this begins with having stricter regulations or stronger policy from governing/purchasing bodies.

Source: UN.org

UN SDG #17: Partnerships for the Goals

As stated previously, there is no corporation who can develop a culture around the SDG’s without a strategy and then applying that strategy on both internal operations and the operations of external suppliers, distributors and so forth. Building a standard for sustainable development takes catalysts for the cause, and other businesses will follow. Globally visible supply chains can take charge, and lead by example in an effort for living up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (unglobalimpact.org 2016).