The greatest impact by German companies on the environment occurs not at their locations in Germany, but in the supply chain. This was demonstrated by the Atlas on Environmental Impacts: Supply Chains, which was developed as part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment in 2017. Each of the eight sectors that were examined show that the environmental impact in the supply chain is at least as high as that at the companies' offices, often many times higher. More than ever before, small and medium-sized enterprises in particular are required and motivated to fulfil their responsibility to society in regard to their supply chains. At the same time, there are major challenges for the environment, those affected at production sites, and for companies – especially when determining significant sustainability impacts and risks in the supply chain. In comparison to large corporations, there are often fewer opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to focus on sustainable supply chain management.
As part of the project's continuation, workshops were held together with companies to determine how these sustainability practices can be established in the supply chain, for example with the help of internal environmental management. In addition to embedding sustainability practices into the companies’ supply chain (for example, with purchasing), the focus was on questions about instruments, approaches, and the development of action plans for participating companies. As part of this initiative, the project team by adelphi and Systain Consulting was also focusing on the subject of digitalisation. In a brochure, the project team has shed light on which connecting factors come into play for sustainable supply chain management as a result of digitalisation.