Corporate supply chains are both contributors and a potential lever to global environmental challenges. However, while companies, specifically consumer facing ones, are making gains in internal sustainability, the bulk of their relative impact actually lies upstream and downstream in their full supply chains. Given the loci of the impacts, companies need to begin to think strategically about the most effective ways to incorporate sustainability across their supply chains, in addition to working on their own operations. Research across industries on sustainable supply chain strategy is limited focusing primarily in certain (usually internal) phases of the supply chain (such as manufacturing) rather than across the full eco-system.
Applying a broad definition of the supply chain as the totality of the processes from extraction to disposal, corporate supply chains are responsible for significant environmental impact. Raw materials for products are extracted from the earth or grown dependent on natural resources. Manufacturing plants transform raw materials into goods. Transportation and logistics by air, land, and sea move materials and goods around the world to meet availability, price, and demand requirements. Goods are sold to consumers, which are then typically disposed into landfills at their end of life. At each step of the supply chain there are raw material requirements, resource consumption, emissions and pollutants, and waste. As supply chains become larger and more wide-ranging to serve the needs of a growing and more affluent global population, their impact continues to grow.
The MIT Responsible Supply Chain Lab examines the past, current, and potential future practices of sustainability in supply chain management across various industries and develops applied models for businesses to effectively implement comprehensive strategies to improve supply chain management and control practices.