Setting Sail Towards a Sustainable Future: How ESG Principles Are Transforming Global Supply Chains

Navigating Challenges, Prioritizing Efficiency, and Embracing ESG
Oct 31, 2023 11:30 AM ET
Infographic displaying stats from Supply Chain Dive report

In the ever-evolving landscape of global supply chain management, one issue has emerged as a top priority: aligning with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. A recent report, “Supply Chains Prepping for a Greener, More Agile Future,” conducted by DP World in collaboration with Supply Chain Dive’s studioID, has shed light on the profound impact of ESG considerations within the industry.

The survey, which drew insights from nearly 160 leaders across supply chain, logistics, operations, and technology sectors, reveals that ESG concerns have ascended to the forefront, joining the ranks of "demand and supply variability" and "lack of agility in adapting to change" as the top challenges facing the sector.

As supply chains grapple with these critical challenges, a transformation is underway. Organizations are realigning their priorities and investment strategies to address these pressing issues head-on. The focus now extends beyond traditional goals to include reducing carbon emissions, enhancing efficiency, bolstering agility, and mitigating risk.

This paradigm shift involves optimizing supply chain operations and investments to align seamlessly with ESG objectives while also scrutinizing vendor relationships, with sustainability credentials assuming a more prominent role in the vendor selection process.

The key findings from the report include:

  • Supply chain pain points have shifted. Top concerns for supply chains are now led by demand and supply variability (cited by 41%), followed by inflexibility/inability to adapt quickly to change (34%). ESG and regulatory and compliance challenges tied for third place (28%).
  • Confidence in supply chain investments is high. More than 9 in 10 respondents anticipate very or somewhat significant impacts from their chosen supply chain strategies. Top expectations include increasing efficiency (97%), increasing value to business partners and other stakeholders (93%) and making the organization more agile (89%).
  • ESG importance has risen considerably — and respondents expect real payoff from investments. Ninety percent of respondents report the priority they place on supply chain sustainability/decarbonization has increased compared with three years ago. Benefits respondents see their ESG investments returning “very or somewhat significant” outcomes, including lowering carbon emissions (89%), lowering supply chain costs (85%) and increasing efficiency (83%).
  • Supply chain optimization leads ESG strategies. Three in five respondents (60%) are turning to supply chain optimization, such as reducing transportation distances, consolidating shipments, and optimizing inventory levels to support ESG goals. Other strategies include employing fuel-efficient driving practices, such as reducing idling time and optimizing routes (38%) and using more energy-efficient transportation methods like electric or hybrid vehicles (37%).
  • ESG is now a key part of vendor strategy. The majority of supply chain executives (84%) report that prospective supply chain partners’ decarbonization and sustainability capabilities are “extremely or very influential” in their organization’s selection processes. More than a third (37%) of respondents are consolidating their vendor lists, and 33% are diversifying their transportation and logistics partners.

In conclusion, the supply chain landscape is undergoing a profound transformation, driven by the imperative of ESG principles. As organizations adapt to these changing dynamics, they are redefining their priorities, investments, and partnerships to create a greener, more agile future. The shift towards ESG is not just a trend but a strategic imperative that holds the promise of enhanced sustainability, efficiency, and competitiveness in the global supply chain ecosystem.

Download the full report here.


DP World collaborated with Supply Chain Dive to conduct the online survey, polling 155 respondents in supply chain, operations and IT roles in a series of multiple-choice questions to understand their current supply chain pain points and priorities. Respondents represent a broad variety of industries, led by industrial manufacturing (21%), retail/wholesale and transportation (13% each). The largest group of respondents work for organizations with annual revenue of $101M-$500M (33%), followed by $51M-$100M (19%) and $501M - $1B (17%). Respondents were based in the United States or Canada.