Are we learning something new about our supply chains?

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For some, it’s just a chore, and for others it’s political correctness gone mad. But there is no doubt that the sustainability agenda has become established within organisations, and it appears to be teaching some new lessons about how supply chains work.

The thought is triggered by Nike, which has just released its sustainability report for 2011. It has been setting sustainability targets for about ten years – and it is clear that this process has played a vital role in understanding what is going on in the supply chain and how it can be influenced more effectively.

Hannah Jones, Nike’s VP for sustainable business and innovation, says: “Since we began setting targets years ago, we’ve learned the greatest opportunity to drive change is in the areas where we have the most impact.”

Nike argues that this is enabling it to bring discipline and rigor in designing sustainability into the way it sources and manufactures products.

One driver, of course, is the fact that Nike has had its share of bad press – last year it had to deal with newspaper reports of workers were being mistreated at a factory producing goods for its Converse brand.

But Nike has a long-term strategic vision  to decouple profitable growth from constrained resources.

President & CEO Mark Parker says: “We have continuously invested in reducing our environmental and social impacts within our own business and supply chain and have made substantial gains over the last decade. We know we cannot achieve our bold sustainability goals simply by delivering incremental improvements.”

The result is a whole series of targets covering not just energy and labour issues, but also  product design.

It’s clear that sustainability strategies are becoming more sophisticated and more detailed in their application. And the impact is going to be felt all the way along the extended supply chain.


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