3 social value challenges in your supply chain – and how you can resolve them

Part of what makes social value so complex is the fact that there are a lot of factors out of our control. You can invest endless time, effort, and resources into being the most ethical and environmentally friendly organisation possible. But if this commitment isn’t mirrored at every stage of your value chain, from your fleet drivers to staff in a warehouse halfway across the world, it means you still have work to do.

A massive 70% of your organisation’s impact will come from your supply chain. And your scope 3 emissions will be around 5.5 times higher than your direct ones.

This goes to show how important it is to bring your suppliers on your social value journey with you. Ideally, it should be a collaborative effort where you work together to have the greatest impact. And this will only grow in importance as mandatory scope 3 emission reporting gets introduced.

If this is something you’re struggling with, then are three common supply chain challenges you may come up against. As well as our two cents on how you can resolve them for a more streamlined, effective social value process.

Challenge #1: Different priorities

Every business is going to approach their social value, sustainability, or ESG in different ways. While you’re all systems go to achieve net zero, one of your suppliers may be laser-focused on improving their pay parity.

This might not sound like a big deal. After all, what they’re working towards is equally valuable. But you have to take into account how your suppliers affect your initiatives. And if they aren’t pulling in the same direction as you, you aren’t going to hit your goals. So in this sense, it’s better to be on the same page as them and have them follow your lead.

What’s the solution?

Now, you can’t force or expect another business to rethink their priorities to appease you. But what you can do is clearly communicate your goals, priorities, and expectations with all suppliers on a regular basis.

Get super clear on the themes, outcomes, and KPIs that matter most to you. Then share them through something like a social value strategy so any tenders match what your aims.

When it comes to existing suppliers, make time to talk to them about what you want to achieve with your social value over the coming months or years. This way, you can quickly manage expectations and find a direction everyone agrees on.

Challenge #2: Inefficient data management

Capturing, analysing, and reporting your impact is laborious enough. Let alone keeping track of everyone else involved in the delivery of your products or services. To create a more sustainable, ethical supply chain, you have to be able to visualise it. This means a lot more data, organisation, and a more mature social value process. 

It’s only going to complicate things further if there’s a communication breakdown between you and your supplier when it comes to data. If you’re using an innovative social value tool while a supplier is still relying on hundreds of spreadsheets, you can end up wasting valuable time chasing them for data, hunting down specific data sets, or double-checking for errors.

What’s the solution?

Not everyone is going to be at the same stage of their social value journey as you. And it’s in all of our best interests for every company to level-up their approach. That’s where significant progress lies.

So, where you have the bandwidth, why not find ways to support your suppliers as they refine and strengthen their data management?

This might look like sharing resources or best practices you’ve learned along your own journey. Or, if you have an effective, efficient tool that works well for you, why not set them up with their own account to cut out all the busy work entirely? That way, they can input data directly into your platform.

Challenge #3: Incompatible frameworks

Not too long ago, whether a business tackled social value at all was a choice. As such, every organisation began their journey at different times, for their own reasons, and with varying levels of knowledge or investment. 

Because of this, we’re still lacking any single, standardised way to tackle social value. Some industries have specific frameworks they like to use, while others opt for a completely ad-hoc approach. 

If you and your suppliers are following different frameworks, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary back and forth and tedious data admin. There might be measures you track that are critical to your organisation’s targets that aren’t possible within their framework or platform. Or vice versa.

What’s the solution?

Instead of boxing yourself in with a single framework and strict list of metrics, framework-independent tools allow you complete freedom and flexibility.

Rather than only tracking what a third-party deems most relevant, you can cherry pick from multiple frameworks or create your own measures entirely. When it comes to your suppliers, this makes it much simpler to integrate data from your supply chain and build out the bigger picture of your organisation’s impact. 

Social value isn’t a one-business race. And your organisation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t separate your impact from that of your suppliers – no matter how far removed they might be from your daily operations. If you’re struggling to create a clear understanding of what your total impact is, start by strengthening these three key areas of the process.