Prof. Gill North

Supply Chain Management and Reporting: Principles, Practices and Progress

The United Nations Global Compact suggests that to be sustainable, a company must operate in alignment with its principles, encompass sustainability within its core DNA, achieve buy-in and full commitment at board and senior executive levels, report annually, and engage locally wherever it has a presence. To satisfy these goals, signatories to the Compact are encouraged to report on their supply chain management.

This paper considers recent market and legal mechanisms driving changes in supply chain conduct and disclosure. It examines existing empirical studies and provides original research that assesses the content and quality of the reporting and website disclosures of leading corporations. It draws on this analysis to highlight emerging opportunities and challenges for corporations and stakeholders, including a complex portfolio of issues for policy consideration.

The paper finds that corporate supply chain management and reporting can be a powerful mechanism to assist corporations to better comprehend and manage their social and environmental impacts. These processes can prompt directors and senior executives to reconsider the purposes of the company, its role within society, and its influence and effects on stakeholders. At the same time, supply chain processes can be applied oppressively to achieve commercial gains at the expense of vulnerable suppliers and other stakeholders. Moreover, as with all forms of company reporting, supply chain disclosure can be used to merely construct a positive public image or as a smokescreen for practices that are irresponsible and unsustainable.