Most damages done to the environment by German companies do not occur on location in Germany, but in the supply chain. This was shown by the "Atlas on Environmental Impacts", which was developed in 2017 by adelphi and Systain Consulting as part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). In early July 2018, a series of workshops for companies in Germany will be launched to develop strategies for integrating sustainability practices into their supply chains.
Daniel Weiss (adelphi) explains in an interview how adelphi and Systain Consulting are advising these enterprises and how companies, especially smaller ones, can be introduced to this topic.
Why should small and medium-sized enterprises make their supply chain sustainable?
Daniel Weiss: The responsibility for negative environmental impacts in the supply chain does not only belong to larger companies engaging in international business. 99 percent of companies in Germany are SMEs, which are also part of international import and export structures. For example, 40 percent of German SMEs are dependent on imports in trade and manufacturing. Small and medium-sized enterprises are also incorporated into the international value chains of large enterprises. As a result, they have enormous potential to bring about changes in other countries.
In addition, in recent years demands have considerably increased for enterprises to focus on sustainability with regard to transparency, information, and due diligence. While the reporting obligation under the CSR Directive Implementation Act only applies to certain large companies, SMEs are expected in the future to also report on non-financial issues, as large companies demand increasing transparency in their supply chain. Conclusion: Overall, SMEs are an important key to sustainability worldwide.
Which companies will you visit? Is there a focus for an industry?
Daniel Weiss: We are keen to support companies in using existing management tools for sustainable supply chain management. Many companies are already very well positioned when it comes to environmental management at their own locations in Germany. We want to work with companies to develop how they can expand existing processes in order to have the most efficient impact on sustainable supply chain management. That is why we specifically seek contact with companies that have already implemented an environmental management system in accordance with EMAS.
We offer support to all sectors of the German economy. What all industries have in common are processes for designing and optimizing a sustainable supply chain. There are processes that are relevant and very similar for all enterprises; this is where our workshops come in to combine these process steps with concrete industry information
We offer support to all sectors of the German economy. What all industries have in common are processes for designing and optimizing a sustainable supply chain. There are processes that are relevant and very similar for all enterprises; this is where our workshops come in to combine these process steps with concrete industry information.
In which industries are the challenges particularly great?
Daniel Weiss: Depending on the industry, different fields of action are important for different enterprises. We have developed these industry profiles with the Environmental Atlas; they then form the basis of the workshops. Two examples from the Environmental Atlas: In the supply chain of German mechanical engineering companies, greenhouse gas and polluting emissions are nine times higher than at company locations in Germany. German food retail actually only generates three percent of its greenhouse gas emissions in Germany.
Depending on the industry, supply chains can be quite complex. Which are easy-to-use solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises?
Daniel Weiss: In discussions with enterprises, I always identify two important points with which smaller companies can get off to a good start:
- Obtain an overview of your suppliers. Compile the goods or services you procure, for example, by purchasing volume and origin. With this information they can already determine the extent to which the findings from the industry profiles in the Environmental Atlas of the Supply Chain apply, and which environmental issues are significant in the supply chain. Having this knowledge is a great advantage. Not only for taking action, but also for discussions with customers and other actors.
- Look for others in you network and use existing information sources. Initiatives for sustainable supply chain management already exist in various industries, while Chambers of Commerce and Industry are also good contacts. As a company, you don't have to start from scratch.
Further introductory information and practical tips for small and medium-sized enterprises can be found in the "Sustainable Supply Chain Tools".