Companies seek to “do no evil”. In the words of many capitalists – profit isn’t evil. No long term successful (i.e. sustainable) company sets out to explicitly damage the environment, harm the social fabric of their communities or the economic interests of others. In an ideal world the environmental should be protected, people should socially thrive and economically all companies should make a fortune with no “Net Harm”. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case – and here is the real kicker – normally consumers are to blame.
Most consumers seek the best possible service at the lowest possible price. What one person defines as “possible” will vary depending on their personal ethical and moral fabric.. Therefore, the best possible price in terms of financial cost, may actually only be achievable by “net harm” environmentally or socially. This harm may also occur economically… however… companies normally just collapse!
What makes a supply chain sustainable?
There are plenty of resources defining supply chain sustainability (both on this website, and the millions of articles via a Google search). One of the most respected metrics is Newsweeks’ Green Rankings. Newsweek doesn’t pull punches, employing globally recognised heavy weights John Elkington (no introduction nessesary), Ersnt Ligteringen (President, Global Reporting Initiative), Kathleen Rogers (President, Earth Day Network), amongst many others. Supply chains are evaluated on set criteria including:
- Combined Energy Productivity Score
- Combined GHG (Green House Gases) Productivity Score
- Combined Water Productivity Score
- Combined Waste Productivity Score
- Green Sanctions (fines, penalties and settlements?)
- Sustainability Pay Link (essentially, are senior executives paid bonuses for meeting challenging sustainability goals?)
- Sustainability Board Committee (does a company have one / enable it to do work?)
- Audited Environmental Metrics (is a company monitoring its impact?)
So who is the worst?
One assumes no company sets out to be “unsustainable”. Setting aside environmental ideals evoked by the word “sustainable”; from an economic point of view; an unsustainable organisation is essentially doomed to eventually fail. Most merely assume that badge through economic pressures or being in an industry that is inherently unsustainable. With this in mind, you can view the full list here. One caveat to the list is that these are the companies who are actively engaging and reporting, and the list only covers 500 of the several million enterprises in the world. However, an honourable mention must go to the Shire Group – the Irish HQ’d healthcare company that ranks #1.