Sustainable supply chains and green building design

We are rapidly developing a global perspective on sustainable supply chains and green building design, driven by the needs of sophisticated clients and some of the world's most influential people.

In June of this year, some of the world’s top business people and public figures met in London alongside senior public figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to discuss ways in which it might be possible to ‘renew the capitalist system’ for the 21st Century. The Conference on Inclusive Capitalism event was attended by no ordinary audience; it consisted of large numbers of the world's most influential people and the super wealthy, estimated to hold around a third of the world’s assets, around $30 trillion. It was an extraordinary gathering and it was telling that one of the key points up for discussion was the sustainable management of the supply chain as it had been the previous year.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of the 2014 event, its founder Lady Rothschild said: ‘Capitalism has to prove to society at large that it is a force for general prosperity and dynamic growth. One of my main objectives was to bring investors into a room, so that investors can decide that they're going to go to management and ask for more than just return on equity. They're going to ask management how are you making sure that your supply chain will last? How are you engaging with your community so that you are still admired and valued by your community?’

The Rise of Sustainable Supply Chains
It’s a timely reminder of how important it is for businesses to manage their supply chain not only effectively but also sustainably. The event came hot on the heels of the publication of researchers Gartner’s tenth annual 'Supply Chain Top 25', which aims to raise awareness of supply chain management and how it impacts businesses and the wider world.

The list includes some very familiar names. The top five-ranked organisations in 2015 include four that regularly make the list: Unilever, McDonald's, Amazon and Intel. The Gartner list makes it clear that corporate social responsibility is now a key consideration when it comes to managing the supply chain.

The report says: ‘Another area we see supply chain leaders championing is CSR. Sometimes, doing the right thing for the environment also yields cost savings through the elimination of waste. By contrast, pursuing a higher standard for human rights at suppliers in less-stringent geographies, costs more, but is the right thing to do. In organizations where the head of supply chain speaks passionately and often on this topic, social responsibility has become a mantra for the entire organization. One benefit of this is that new and veteran supply chain employees have become excited by the level of impact they can have on their companies and the world at large.’

Green Building Design Goes Global
Although the Gartner list focuses primarily on FMCG firms, the sustainable management of supply chain is of enormous importance in business to business settings, including in the field of construction and building materials. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world’s most dynamic economies. In China, for example, the government has set a target of having green buildings account for around a third of all new construction by 2020. This in turn is encouraging a global perspective on green building design, the sharing of know-how from around the world and a dynamic approach to sustainable supply chain management. 

One of the organisations now directly involved in China is the UK’s Building Research Establishment (BRE) which has signed an agreement to set up a training and R&D centre in China's fastest growing city Shenzhen. BRE is responsible for the BREEAM accreditation system for Green Buildings which alongside ratings such as LEED and GreenStar do so much to promote the development of green buildings and environmentally friendly building materials and processes.

This is a complex issue, especially when set alongside issues related to the supply chain. But it is being driven by a sophisticated client base who get it when it comes to looking beyond headline claims about sustainability and CSR. It is imperative that global businesses are able to work with the educated and informed clients to make them aware not only of the business's activities in this regard but also identify new opportunities and open new frontiers.