The supply chain is a complex system where sustainability is a priority, incorporating economic, environmental, and social dimensions towards continuous transformation. Undertaking these actions has the complexity of finding the balance between consumption, growth, and development, constantly improving profitability and performance.
One, if not, the great factor for a sustainable systemic transformation, focuses on the coordination and collaboration of the agents involved in the entire chain, public and private entities and even citizens. This is detailed in the 2030 Agenda through a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its 169 targets.
Companies have one of the most important roles in achieving these goals. These are required to find the approach and the way to address each of the challenges according to their business model and characteristics. The latter still confuses where only some have managed to generate successful and continuous initiatives. There is a long way to go to address these objectives with a holistic and integrated approach and for more and more sectors to participate in a joint effort. Still, progress has been made.
Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as SDGs, were adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. To achieve a better and more sustainable world by 2030.
This initiative is a new expanded version of the objectives established for the period 2000-2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that served as a guide to empowering global action to reduce extreme poverty.
The SDGs towards 2030 support a global and comprehensive agenda that includes both social and environmental objectives with what it intends, accompanied by other initiatives to counteract global problems, such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, and justice.
Its ideological basis is centred on collaboration:
- In which economic prosperity, social progress and environmental protection are efforts that must go hand in hand with coordinated systems. Therefore, the SDGs are interconnected and must be pursued together.
- Collective effort is necessary. Where various actors (government, corporations, and civil society) are involved to transform our global society. The SDGs serve to unify and guide collaborative efforts around a common aspiration. It advocates the need for new cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder partnerships. Without this, the ambition to solve the world’s great challenges will be impossible to achieve.
The first step is to encourage corporations of all sizes and sectors to focus on the SDGs where they can contribute effectively. To define goals, initiatives and announce the company’s commitment by integrating them into their Corporate Social Responsibility reports. In 2017, just two years after the launch of this version of the goals, 43% of the world’s top-revenue companies referred to the SDGs in their CSR reports.
The SDGs in logistics and supply chains
Concerning supply chains there is a vision of transformation towards flexibility and sustainability. For this, supply chain sustainability and responsible sourcing are essential to achieve these global objectives.
The goal is to achieve businesses and processes that ensure that the extent of all business operations, products and services can support our planet realities and better serve markets for today and in the future.
To start addressing initiatives and seek to adapt them to each company’s characteristics, the International Labour Organization (ILO) proposes, based on the SDGs, some goals focused on specific objectives.
Relevant SDG targets related to global supply chains
8.a Increase aid-for-trade support to developing countries, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework (Enhanced IF) for LDCs.
9.3 Increase the access of small industrial and other enterprises, particularly in developing countries to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.
9.5 Enhance scientific research and the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries. Including by 2030, fostering innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per million people and public and private spending on research and development.
9.b Support proprietary technology development, research, and innovation in developing countries. By ensuring an enabling policy environment for, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
16.3 Promote the rule of law at national and international levels and guarantee equal access to justice for all.
17.11 Significantly increase the exports of developing countries, in particular with a view of doubling the share of LDCs in world exports by 2020.
Example of SDGs application in logistics and supply chain: DHL Group.
DHL Group is one of the world’s largest employers, with a diverse team of more than half a million people working in 220 countries and territories. This puts them in a unique position to make a significant contribution to achieving the SDGs.
Their Sustainability Roadmap focuses on six SDGs, according to the areas where they consider they can have the greatest impact: Quality education, Gender equality, Decent work and economic growth, Sustainable cities and communities, Climate Action, and Goal Alliances. Where they define their key commitments to run clean operations to protect the climate and provide an inclusive and trustworthy company.
Its objectives are strongly linked to logistics. Seeking new solutions through research for innovation and collaboration with organizations and governments:
- Reduction of waste and generation of Zero Waste in packaging.
- They have developed the “logistics unverpackt” where online delivery logistics focuses on reusable packaging and dispenses with unnecessary and polluting packaging.
- Reduction of emissions and sustainable mobility.
- In 2015, the company collaborates with Forética to develop the “Sustainable Life in Cities” project in Spain and Latin America. Focused on intercity freight transport reduction, seeking to minimize CO2 emissions.
- Project Development in cities such as Bilbao, Vitoria and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. For infrastructure improvement and new urban collecting and delivery centres, use of sustainable transport, as well as continuous research to generate optimization strategies for truck and van loads. They are also committed to the training and implementation of efficient driving systems.
- New transport fleets.
- To improve sustainable urban logistics, electric delivery vehicles have begun to be implemented. The first tests began in the city of Bonn with 50 vehicles. These vehicles do not produce CO2 emissions and allow logistics companies to continue sustainably operating in urban centres.
- Deutsche Post DHL’s GoGreen program dedicates extensive research resources to the development of hybrid engines and the use of sustainable fuels such as natural gas or biogas.
Achieving a greener Supply Chain together with a socially responsible logistics chain are determining factors in terms of competitive advantage. Think that these developments, on the one hand, help to reduce the supply chain’s impact on the planet, while generating cost-saving opportunities and improvements in business performance. In addition, living in this era of digital transformation, innovation also plays a key role in preserving environmental sustainability and collective well-being.