Three Business Actions Towards Improving Supply Chain Sustainability

As we draw to the end of the year, a time of self-reflection is in order, prompted by events such as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and discussions of how future industries will go forward. Similarly, Gartner has advised procurement and supply chain companies to re-evaluate their business goals and take three major actions to contribute positively to a more sustainable world. 

At the research firm’s Virtual Supply Chain Symposium last month, leaders concluded that to address environmental risks alongside financial goals businesses need to adopt a sustainable profit approach by leading with a long-term perspective, connect teams through a shared purpose for driving social action, and build a network of partnerships with organisations that have equal values. 

Kavita Cooper, founder and managing director at Novo-K Procurement Solutions, commented: “The COP26 media frenzy has highlighted the public feeling towards sustainability and value-led organisations. Now is the time to promote your organisations ethics. Novo-K have done this since 2017 by aligning ourselves to three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and working with key non-profit partners to deliver our commitments.” 

Looking at the bigger picture 

One of the main ways companies can improve supply chains for the future is to redirect focus towards long-term profits. This means understanding how to build resilience to threats such as global chokepoints and shortages of materials and workers; ensuring supply chains can adapt to new pressures; and accounting for impacts that are consequence risks such a soil and air pollution.  

Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said: “There are many examples of companies that have adopted a broader definition of profit to guide their organisations, who now outperform their peers. Stakeholder groups such as investors, customers, suppliers and employees have all responded well to the new focus on truly sustainable profit.” 

Cooper added:

“The opportunity for any organisation will be turning sustainability profit into a competitive advantage. The key to longer term success will be understanding how this can be tracked, measured and improved upon, which won’t be achieved in isolation but as part of a bigger collaboration.” 

A sense of purpose 

A time of job volatility has washed over the professional world as people re-evaluate what fulfils them in life following global threats such as the pandemic and climate change-induced natural disasters.  

Gartner highlighted that a shared purpose, especially with contributions towards environmental and social goals, is the best glue for a resilient, motivated team. Stiffler said: “There’s a clear business pay-off connected to shared purpose. Gartner research sees a 26% increase in workforce health when work is personally relevant to an employee and 50% improvement in employee engagement when a company takes action on social issues.” 

Meanwhile two fifths of employees said they were at least ‘somewhat likely’ to quit their current job in the next three – six months, according to a global study across multiple industries conducted by research firm McKinsey & Company, referred to as the “Great Attrition” trend. Over half said their top reasons for leaving was that they didn’t feel valued by their organisations (54%) or managers (52%), or they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%). Other ‘somewhat important’ factors included poor potential for advancement, lack of flexible working, and not having caring and trusting colleagues. 

“Employees were far more likely to prioritise relational factors, whereas employers were more likely to focus on transactional ones” such as pay, poor health and work–life balance, said McKinsey. This has led to the belief that there is a divide in the understanding between employers and professionals in what they are looking for in a company and job. Over two thirds of employers (64%) surveyed expect high rates of voluntary turnovers to continue or increase, but those that are creating a work community with a shared purpose and sense of belonging will likely fare better. 

McKinsey recommended applying these questions to your business to address talent retention: 

  • Do your managers motivate and inspire their teams, and lead with compassion?
  • Are you making your employees feel valued? 
  • Do you have the right people in the right places (especially managers)? 
  • How are you building a sense of community, and strong business culture in a post-pandemic working world? 
  • Employees want career paths and development opportunities. Can you provide it? 
  • Are your benefits aligned with employee priorities, and not just based on how well you can pay? 


Building partnerships with similar organisations 

Changing to new ways of working or thinking always hinges on a business environments ability to evolve together. Organisations will benefit from partnering alongside others as a collective force that hold the same values and will persevere with progressive actions. 

Simon Bailey, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said: “Leading organisations are rapidly increasing the number of ecosystem partners because they see value in being part of something bigger and leveraging novel partnerships, with new ways of working in value-aligned ecosystems.”  

Cooper added that in order to build a “value-aligned ecosystem”, there will need to be collaboration between not just businesses, but also governments and NGO’s. 

Words by Lucy Patchett, Novo-K Journalist



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