Bringing sustainable supply chains to developoing countries

By studying food supply chains in Pakistan, researchers have uncovered key factors that need to be addressed in order to make those supply chains sustainable. This work could have major consequences for supply chains in Pakistan, thereby affecting the entire food sector in that region.

Globalization is constantly on the rise, and customer demand grows along with it. As the process of globalization accelerates, optimal supply chain performance becomes more critical than ever – especially for organizations that wish to stay competitive in global markets. However, as organizations invest in optimizing their supply chains, they must also consider their sustainability and governmental regulation, as well as stakeholders and public reactions.

It is little wonder that organizations are forced to consider the social sustainability of their supply chains. Social sustainability helps promote the health, safety and well-being of the organization’s employees, as well as that of the public in large. For organizations invest in social sustainability, however, they need to figure out the Return on Investment (ROI) of such processes. Unfortunately, this kind of data is hard to come by.

Robust social sustainability indicators and models are especially hard to come by in developing countries, because of the diverse nature of their industries, and difficult social issues the citizens and governments are faced with.

In a study published in the Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management journal, lead author Prof. Sharfuddin Ahmed Khan from the University of Sharjah and his collaborators analyzed the social sustainability issues of the food sector in Pakistan. Their main goal in the research was to develop a causal diagram for the social supply chain, so that the system could be properly modeled. By achieving that, organizations in Pakistan could conceivably modify their supply chains in a way that would benefit practically everyone.

Sharfuddin Ahmed Khan
Prof. Sharfuddin Ahmed Khan from the University of Sharjah

The findings of the study reveal that three factors are the most critical when attempting to create and maintain social sustainable supply chains. The first factor is maintaining a balance between work and life. The second is enhancing the education and public awareness about sustainability. Finally, the third factor is working on the employer rights in attaining the socially sustainably supply chain. These factors, however, are highly interconnected, so that one affects the other, and they all need to be properly addressed.

While adapting supply chains may be highly expensive for organizations, the researchers have uncovered that consumers would be more willing to purchase products that were produced and transported in sustainable ways.

These findings, if adopted by organizations in Pakistan, could have a dramatic effect on their supply chains. By putting a spotlight on sustainable supply chains, organizations could make them less harmful for the environment, less wasteful, and even reduce energy consumption along the way. While some capital investment is needed in order to adapt the existing supply chains, it is incredibly encouraging to know that Pakistanis understand the importance of sustainability and would be willing to reward the organizations that focus on this aspect of business.

Original content by Nawartna

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