The Supply Chain Matters blog highlights a revealing survey published this week regarding viewpoints relative to business sustainability and ESG actions which reflect both a call to action and a perspective of advanced technology enablement.



There are mixed views in business and supply chain management settings as to whether customers would be willing to both maintain brand loyalty or pay extra for products that are deemed to be sourced and produced from sustainable sources and social responsibility driven labor practices.

Results of a survey released this week provide some quantitative and qualitative perspectives on such practices.


Announced Survey Findings

Oracle has announced findings from a termed No Planet B corporate sustainability study that provides definitive data regarding viewpoints from customers and consumers on areas related to business sustainability and overall business ESR initiatives.

This study, sponsored by Savanta, Inc. under the sponsorship of both Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor, Instructor for Harvard University Professional Development, surveyed a reported 11,000 customers and business leaders among 15 countries during the period between February 25 thru March 14, 2022.

The study explored attitudes and behaviors of consumers and business leaders towards sustainability and social efforts along with the role and expectations of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots in environmental, societal and governance (ESG) efforts.

Among the listed summary findings were the following:

  • A majority of consumers (94 percent) believe that society has not done enough progress on sustainability and social efforts.
  • A majority of business leaders (96 percent) indicate a belief that human bias and emotions hurt corporate sustainability end goal efforts, with 89 percent indicating a belief that use of advanced technology directed toward sustainable business practices “will be the ones to succeed in the long run.”
  • A significant portion of respondents (78 percent) “are frustrated and fed-up with the lack of progress made by businesses in these areas.”


What Supply Chain Matters found of added interest are definitive survey data that indicate that consumers would cut ties with businesses that do not take visible action on sustainability and social initiatives. Indications noted are that 70 percent of respondents would be willing to cancel their relationship with a brand that does not take sustainability and social initiatives seriously while 69 percent are inclined to leave their current employer and work for a brand that places a greater focus on ESG efforts.

A further reported indication by respondents are views that businesses would make progress where humans have failed toward sustainability and social goals with help of artificial intelligence (84 percent) as well as the use of bots (61 percent). Regarding the latter, reportedly there are beliefs expressed that bots are better at collecting different types of data without error, making rational decisions and predicting future outcomes based on metrics of performance. Not all respondents shared such views, but the respondent percentages would indicate definitive viewpoints.

Commenting on the overall survey results, study co-sponsor Pamela Rucker indicated in-part: “The results show that people are more likely to do business with and work for organizations that act responsibly toward our society and the environment. This is an opportune moment. While thinking has evolved, technology has as well, and it can play a key role in overcoming many of the obstacles that have held progress back.


Added Supply Chain Matters Perspectives

While a singular study should be interpreted as such, this particular study has meaning as to the specific viewpoints brought forward and as to the weighting of views.

What would have provided added interest would be specific summary demographics of survey respondents, particularly age groupings.  We would venture a viewpoint that younger based viewpoints may be reflected. Perhaps the study authors and share some of that demographic data.

That aside, the survey does reflect a clear call-to-action viewpoint for global businesses regarding stepping up efforts and commitments to ESG actions and imperatives, and for taking a technology lens perspective in actions.

Corporate social responsibility actions are of an important perspective for global supply chain strategy, given past tendencies to seek out lowest cost labor regions among various branded companies. Such global wide sourcing complexities and vulnerabilities were exposed by the effects of two years of a global pandemic and subsequent cascading global shipping disruptions, service level erosions and subsequent exploding freight rates.

Data provided by global based risk insurers indicate that since the year 2011, climate driven events have cost businesses more than $100 billion in six of this ten-year period. While liability insurance provides some financial buffer, such loses should be concerning to C-Suite and boardroom executives, not to mention the business continuity risk factors.  The notions of the existence or non-existence of human bias can likely be interpreted from such financial data.

A contrasting viewpoint being expressed in global-wide circles are that the various alternative energy technologies needed to achieve a zero emissions state are yet to be developed. That stated, perceptions seem to fall on whether to take a glass have full or glass empty approach.

The ongoing Ukraine conflict and its implications on global energy markets provides businesses and industry supply chain teams added opportunities to up the sense of urgency and to reexamine sustainability efforts from differing lenses of technology, be they short, interim or long-term. There are considerations for eliminating as much as possible, dependencies on fossil fuels, as well as timetables to achieve zero emissions. While added technology advances are needed our sense is that consumers and employees desire definitive actions, a literal bolder stake in the ground that businesses need to get things done in this area.

The human bias dimensions are cogent, and likely come from financial and private equity interests that continue to influence shorter-term investor gains over longer-term business investments. That solution requires a different approach and perspective, one that has more to do with how financial markets ultimately value sustainability and business continuity investments. Movements have been made in this area as climate activist investors become more vocal and influential over time.

The one area that is clear is that industry supply chains, with their contribution towards achieving zero-emissions will remain in the forefront of such efforts. A renewed sense of urgency may well present a rethinking of the notions of global supply chain movements in favor of more regionalized supply chains serving specific market regions.

Bob Ferrari


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