Increasing collective understanding of outcomes associated with supply chain sustainability initiatives

Companies are increasingly using supply chain sustainability initiatives to eliminate environmentally-detrimental practices from their supply chains as they strive to achieve conservation and environmental sustainability outcomes.

Three important strategies are frequently used. Investors and other financial institutions offer a range of incentives to companies to implement sustainability commitments by conditioning access to capital. Hundreds of companies have made these kinds of corporate commitments to improving sustainability practices in their commodity supply chains, most commonly to sustainable sourcing of soy, timber, cattle, and paper and pulp – four major commodities linked to tropical deforestation. Certification and standards systems are often used as tools for implementing those sustainability commitments and providing sanctions to encourage producers to change their practices.

As the scale and prevalence of such supply chain sustainability initiatives increase, a central question has emerged:

Do supply chain sustainability initiatives change company behavior, alter supply chain sourcing, and ultimately achieve conservation and environmental sustainability outcomes?

Teams of researchers and practitioners are working together to assess the implementation and impacts of corporate sustainability commitments, including the role of the finance sector and certification and standards.

What do we know about the outcomes associated with corporate sustainability commitments, finance sector strategies, and certification and standards? What factors contribute to the success or failure of such initiatives? What additional information is needed to better understand their impacts? What can be done to improve these strategies?