Sustainable supply chain management

Due to increasing globalisation, the last few decades have witnessed a rapid increase in global supply and value chains. In addition to the social and ecological effects of global production and trade relations, from a corporate viewpoint this means, above all, a continually increasing complexity of supply and value chains within all industrial sectors. This complexity, caused by the “outsourcing” of production, the shortening of product life cycles, and the branching out of suppliers into several subcontracting companies, makes it more difficult for companies to retain an overview of their production conditions and their effects on people and nature.

In the course of this development, the pressure on companies to become aware of their corporate responsibility and to accept this with regard to the effects caused is therefore increasing. In specific terms, this means disclosing complex supply and value chains, creating traceability, and introducing targeted strategic and operational measures to implement social and ecological sustainability principles. In particular, this transparency also means taking responsibility for violations by subcontractors in connection with one’s own business activities. The implementation of this transparency and openness, however, is anything but simple and requires a very high degree of corporate awareness and technical visualisation in order to ensure control of one’s own company practices.

In this connection, the concept of Supply Chain Transparency (SCT) provides promising approaches for corporate strategies and processes, and these require further intensive academic study. The NCT-NIT research area of Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) therefore deals specifically with the implementation possibilities and potential of increased transparency within global supply and value chains. In particular, this concerns the role of data-based technologies which support sustainability-oriented SSCM processes and strategies, and are intended to reduce their complexity.

A current doctoral project aims at researching and developing framework concepts and management strategies for the implementation of data-based SCT technologies and processes within industrialised and emerging countries. In addition, the project is investigating concepts for visibility and traceability within multilevel supply and value chains. The main focus is on the interactions and relationships between protagonists and stakeholders within complex supply and value chains, as well as on the exchange of information and knowledge between them.