With a rising proportion of value creation located in global supply chains, meeting social and ecological standards by business partners and upstream industries has moved up the corporate agenda. This is about risk management and reputation, but also about taking a stance and encouraging the compliance with minimum standards within the company’s reach, wherever in the world that may be.
A number of serious and headline-grabbing incidents in global supply chains have led political and civil society actors – and consumers – in Germany to increasingly question the extent to which German companies actually act responsibly when operating abroad, and to ask what political responses are needed. Numerous initiatives such as the preparation of a national action plan for business and human rights and initiatives in the scope of the German G7 Presidency (in 2015) and G20 Presidency (starting in December 2016) address the question of what can and must be expected of German companies in global supply chains.
Companies are already responding proactively to these demands with targeted sustainability measures in supplier management and sectoral initiatives (such as Chemie³ and “Together for Sustainability” in the chemicals sector and EICC and GeSI in the electronics industry).
Nonetheless, there is still a discrepancy between the demands placed on companies and actual implementation. This is above all because the de facto limits to corporate influence shaped by increasingly complex and dynamic value networks have not yet been made sufficiently clear. econsense, Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business, works nationally and internationally to encourage constructive political, public and academic dialogue about what is possible and necessary with respect to sustainable supply chains. Supporters are always welcome.
Dr. Wolfgang Große Entrup is Head of Corporate Sustainability and Business Stewardship at Bayer AG. He is also chair of the environment committee of the economic council and Chairman of the Board of econsense, Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business.
About econsense: econsense is an association of leading, globally active companies and organizations of German business specializing in the area of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Founded in 2000 on the initiative of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the goal of econsense is to provide a dialogue platform and think tank, with the dual objectives of advancing sustainable development in business and assuming social responsibility. For more information see: www.econsense.de.