Supply Chain goes green

What is the importance of sustainable supply chain management in times of crisis?

Protecting the environment better and integrating sustainable practices into everyday business has become an increasingly important issue for many companies in recent years. Processes and structures were analysed and plans for change were developed. For many companies, the focus was on supply chains, which have considerable potential for improvement in many areas. More transparency, sustainable and fair production conditions, improved packaging and efficient means and routes of transport were the focus of attention here.

And then came the Corona crisis.

Now we are even more interested in how the crisis has affected the implementation of sustainable, green supply chain management. Are improvements in this area still equally high on the agenda for companies? What of the plans have been implemented in recent years?

The 15th Hermes Trend Barometer deals precisely with this topic and surveyed 200 companies in Germany on the subject: Green Supply Management


Development of sustainable strategies and their implementation within the supply chain

74 % of the logistics managers surveyed think that companies need to integrate ecological and social criteria into their goals and decisions to ensure long-term competitiveness. 

Based on this, 31 % have developed sustainable strategies for their supply chain. 22 % have also started to implement measures so far. Only one in ten companies (10 %) have fully implemented their sustainability strategy.


Positive trend in CO2 footprint accounting

If we look at the number of companies that currently document their CO2 footprint, we can see an increase of 12 % compared to spring 2020. The value went up from 19 % to 31 %. In more than half of these companies, service providers and suppliers also report their CO2 emissions, which corresponds to an increase of 24 % since 2020. Offsetting of their CO2 emissions is also undertaken by 69 % of the active companies, which corresponds to an increase of 14 % compared to 2020.

Other measures that have been implemented: 53 % of the reporting companies rely on alternative means of transport, regionalisation and diversification of the supply network or the use of SCM software to make processes more efficient and save emissions.

It can be seen that companies with more than 250 employees are much more active in these areas than smaller companies.


Green trend reversal also discernible among previously inactive companies

A trend towards green supply chain management is also evident among companies that do not yet report their CO2 emissions: In spring 2020, only 8% planned to report their emissions in the near future. Now this is desirable for 34%. In the spring of 2020, 65% still stated that they did not plan to record their CO2 emissions in the near future. This figure is now only 24%. The main reason why these companies do not plan to record their emissions is that there is no uniform standard to date.


Growing environmental awareness as a major driver of change in supply chains

“Green supply chain management” is currently very important for 40% of the German companies surveyed. Growing environmental awareness will change supply chains, 84% of logistics managers have no doubt about that. That is why more than half of the respondents set ambitious targets for reducing CO2 emissions. The problem, however, is that for 61% of the respondents this issue ends at the company border, because they have little influence on supplier companies and almost no access at all to the behaviour of downstream companies. This makes the realisation of a “green supply chain” immensely difficult.


The change has begun

In summary, despite the current crisis, we can see a shift in thinking among companies towards more sustainable supply chains. The willingness to change and reduce CO2 emissions is growing and companies are also recognising the competitive advantages that go hand in hand with this. However, due to a lack of standards and influence on downstream processes, the road to a consistently green supply chain will still be a long one.


Cf. Hermes Supply Chain Blog, 15. Hermes Barometer: Green Supply Chain Management, accessed 07.01.2022