Last week one of our analysts, Pam Fitzpatrick, attended the Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference held in Boston. Pam and I discussed how far some companies have progressed in their supply chain sustainability and CSR initiatives, yet for others the focus is still on compliance and cost savings.
Back in 2006, almost 10 years ago when we were still AMR Research, we published a book “Supply Chain Saves the World” where we predicted making money and saving the world at the same time was the next frontier for organizations. For some, this has become a reality and companies have thrived while also helping society and the environment. Utopia! In many other instances visionary supply chain leaders may see opportunities for triple-bottom-line wins but must first convince their C-suite to invest in Supply Chain capabilities and enabling technologies. Our research will help them build that case.
Getting back to my discussion with Pam, she noted a few interesting themes and insights worth sharing:
• How to Build the Business Case for CSR. Several presenters described ways to evaluate ROI and make the case for CSR-related investments. One organization studied links between a company’s sustainability performance and its brand strength, reputational risk and credit costs – all useful, quantifiable methods for showing impact.
• Integrators (and Orchestrators) Will Win. Several speakers talked about the necessity of rising up and out of silos to achieve bold targets or leverage CSR as platform for innovation. Supply Chain executives must become experts at integrating supply chain functions, supply chain with other parts of the enterprise, and even external stakeholders — for an “outside-in” perspective.
• Supply Chain Must Take the Wheel. Supply Chain leaders may be working in a top-down, bottom-up or blended approach to goal-setting and management. Leading companies know that CSR should not be driven by public affairs departments. In fact, supply chain leaders must secure a seat and strong voice at the CSR governance table and demand more funding/initiatives for risk management and revenue growth strategies.
• CSCOs Need Investor-Ready Strategies. Pam heard presentations from BlackRock, Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg – who is spending big $$$ on the integration of ESG data into Bloomberg terminals and (via SASB) on reporting standards for inclusion on 10-Ks. Supply Chain leaders should thus ‘make it personal’ when convincing CEOs to invest in addressing these factors. (See Pam’s earlier research on this topic.)
• Need for “Storytellers.” The value of storytelling was key, particularly for investors. They want companies to provide access to better risk management data (financial and nonfinancial) and share that data in a clear and compelling way.
Stay tuned. This will certainly help shape Pam’s CSR research agenda going forward!