Sustainable supply: The value of collaboration and education

We look at EDF’s newly launched sustainability resource hub and the collaborative benchmarking efforts of GSK, Teva and Takeda

sustainable delivery

The modern global supply chain is responsible for over 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, two-thirds of tropical deforestation and 80 per cent of all water use.

To combat this, many supply chain and logistics leaders are now seeing the need to undertake sustainable initiatives and think differently about the way their supply chains are running.

In a recent survey of 728 companies, PwC found that 63% of transport and logistics respondents have highlighted the Sustainable Development Goals in their company reporting. Of these goals, 76% listed the pledge to take urgent action on climate change as their most relevant or priority goal.

As PwC recognized, for the forward-thinking businesses, willing to embrace corporate social responsibility, they will stand to deliver business success and growth and take advantage of new market opportunities.

While many companies are open to integrating new sustainable initiatives, it can be difficult to know where to start.


New resources to support sustainable supply chains

To assist the industry, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have recently launched a Supply Chain Solutions Center, with the assistance of 10 other leading NGOs.

Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director of EDF+ Business believes this platform will put “resources and expert advice at the fingertips of sustainability professionals”.  The site has been described as a “digital village” with a wide-range of resources, including;  case studies, templates for sustainability plans, benchmarking surveys and opportunities to connect directly with experts in the field. 

The resource hub aims to help those that are just beginning on their sustainability journey as well as providing insight for companies looking to scale up their efforts. As Elizabeth recognized when speaking to Forbes, for many companies “sustainability might never have been part of their company’s business plan, but it is now because of the serious risk to company supply chains and demand from consumers, investors and even employees”.

With a number of institutions coming forward to highlight how little time we have to reverse the impact of climate change, there is public demand to see progress from those responsible from some of the biggest levels of emissions.

While working to reduce the environmental impact of the supply chain can have positive results on public perception, it can also be a bonus for the bottom line. In 2017, more than 4,800 companies reported emission reductions amounting to 551 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This equates to $14 billion in savings. EDF hope to drive more companies to seek these levels of savings by expanding their knowledge through easy to access practical information.


Accessible data and industry collaboration

This year has also marked other industry initiatives to bring together the logistics industry to achieve sustainability.

In January, 2019, GlaxoSmithKline, Teva and Takeda partnered with EcoVadis to launch a Responsible Health Initiative. Their aim is to use technology and collaboration to improve the visibility, efficiency and sustainability impact of the global health supply chain.

Through this initiative they will be looking to; harmonize industry standards for online CSR assessments, adopt a common platform to share CSR performance and benchmark and implement shared tools to boost supplier engagement.

They hope that by working together they can reduce risk and increase visibility in the supply chain. Pierre-Francois Thaler, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of EcoVadis echoed the importance of collaboration to drive such results. He said “peer collaboration is a proven model for enabling companies in any sector to easily harmonize sustainability performance measurement and extend visibility”.

The group believe they can offer members the ability to identify high-performing suppliers and best practices, reduce operational disruptions, mitigate risk and drive value with suppliers. Speaking to the partnership, Val Monk, Head of the Ethics and Risks Programs at GSK said the initiative will help them “leverage digital sustainability intelligence to more effectively select and partner with suppliers who share our values”.


Clearly, the pharmaceutical supply chain is making strides to prioritize sustainability and it is encouraging to see NGOs working to support, educate and assist those who are exploring these initiatives. It is clear that further collaboration and benchmarking efforts across the industry will be needed to make a significant impact and change the way companies approach their supply chain.

Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of Blackrock Inc. put it best when he recognized that “to prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society”. He continued that “companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate”.