“Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want”: A Sustainable Supply Chain

Richard Howells

So, I am sure you are thinking, what do Spice Girls’ lyrics have to do with supply chains. Well, I will tell you: It’s all about ethical sourcing.

Recent reports in the UK have highlighted poor working conditions and low pay in a Bangladesh factory producing t-shirts for leading UK retailers. Female workers were earning the equivalent of US$0.30 an hour in hostile working conditions; quite ironically, they were manufacturing Spice Girls-themed t-shirts sold to raise money for a “gender justice” campaign within the national Comic Relief event.

In fairness, both Comic Relief and Spice Girls reportedly checked the ethical sourcing credentials of the company contracted to make the t-shirts, which had changed manufacturers without their knowledge.

This is just another example of one challenge in today’s global supply chain, where the need for end-to-end visibility and collaboration across all levels – from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of goods to the end customers door – is critical.

Social, economic, and environmental sustainability at the heart of supply chain

Data from Nielsen finds that 66% of global customers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

These customers are looking to buy from companies that:

  • Design products that are biodegradable and environmentally sustainable
  • Source materials ethically from organizations that follow social and humanitarian practices
  • Manufacture with minimal waste and environment impact
  • Deliver with logistics processes that optimize loads to reduce mileage, emissions, and carbon footprint
  • Operate assets and equipment in an energy-efficient manner that is safe for the environment and workforce

While these may be daunting challenges, companies have an incentive to move forward beyond the moral imperative. Sustainable supply chain processes, after all, are good not only for the environment but also for worker safety, customer satisfaction, and – in many cases – for cost reduction.

So, “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.” This “Old” Spice wants an ethical and sustainable global supply chain with fair wages, better working conditions, and – of course – gender equality!

Follow me on Twitter @howellsrichard

Join an interactive session featuring me, Jeff Hojlo, program director of Product Innovation Strategies at IDC, and Hans Thalbauer, senior vice president of Digital Supply Chain and Industry 4.0 at SAP, to get inspired by how best-in-class companies are reinventing their supply chain. Register here.


About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.