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COVID-19 Brings Supply Chain Resilience to the Fore

August 31, 2020

With the arrival of COVID-19, the movement of people, goods and services has been disrupted across the globe; urging business to reflect on the long-term viability of supply chains.

Supported by an expert panel, SVP’s Building Resilient Supply Chains webinar sought to explore this, as part of its Climate for Change series last week.

General Manager of CIPS Australia and New Zealand Sharon Morris described 2020 as “the wake-up call we needed”.

“What’s really important is COVID-19 has brought [sustainability] to the forefront. There have been risks to the supply chain for a while now, particularly with climate change.

“COVID-19 has really quickened the process of us looking at how we focus on sustainability moving forward. From a profession side of things, we really need to lift our game.”

Nestlé Oceania’s Head of Corporate and External Relations Margaret Stuart noted there was no question about whether to respond to COVID-19 or pursue sustainability: “We have to do both. The sustainability agenda is going to be here for a long time… sustainability is as important to consumers as it ever was.

“The real challenge right now is that we’ve lost visibility of supply chains. You can’t do audits; you can’t do visits. If you haven’t done your homework until now, those things aren’t there.”

Stuart proposed that while oversight of supply chains was occurring remotely, relationships were more important than ever for understanding which stakeholders might be left vulnerable.

“Care for people has been most critical. You want people to feel safe coming to work, which has been the first priority,” she said.

“We need to look now at how we can be more flexible, more versatile, and how we can equip and empower those lower down in the supply chain to do their own due diligence.”

Morris suggested that collaboration and innovation have become critical for supply chains.

“Extending those relationships to NGOs and trusted advisors on the ground is really important, so it really comes back to the relationships,” she said.

Both panellists pointed to innovations they’ve seen across the region: 3D printing of protective gear, gin distilleries making hand sanitiser and multinationals using satellites and NGOs on the ground to monitor supply chains.

The introduction of the Modern Slavery Act has also shaped supply chain management in the past year. Stuart, who contributed to the development of the Act, noted that as more companies turn to local suppliers, there will be an increased focus on our domestic supply chains.

“We tend to think of human rights as things that happen in other countries, but I think we’re going to think about it domestically more.”

She also spoke to Nestlé’s work with cocoa farmers as an example of how shared value can be used to strengthen supply chains.

“Ultimately through a shared value model you end up with a more robust supply chain. As farmers became more sustainable and productive, and as those communities became more robust and farmers developed cooperatives, that helped our entire supply chain become more robust,” she said.

“The work we’ve done over the years supports us into the future.”

Morris commended the region as a leader in sustainable and resilient supply chains: “The rise of social procurement is quite extraordinary in Australia and New Zealand.

“Shared value is certainly becoming better known and we’re noticing, as a global organisation, that Australia and New Zealand are leading the way.”