The agreement between consumers and businesses about what constitutes a mutually beneficial relationship is undergoing a massive sea change. The result is a new social contract driven in large part by the desire for one thing: transparency. Increasingly, consumers, both B2B and B2C, expect complete transparency from anyone to whom they give their money, and their watchful gaze extends from brand messaging down to the furthest reaches of supply chain management.


Why do supply chains matter? Because one supply chain can span the planet, touching vast numbers of people and environments. In fact, a supply chain represents 50 percent to 70 percent of the sustainability footprint of most major global companies. So, while a mismanaged supply chain can exact a terrible human toll, a supply chain driven by sustainable practices and managed transparently, can, literally, help save the world by preserving the environment and protecting its most vulnerable inhabitants.  


Socially responsible supply chains:

  • Increase revenues by up to 20%
  • Reduce supply chain costs by as much as 16% 
  • Boost brand value by up to 30%
  • Shrink carbon footprints by as much as 22%
  • 50% of global consumers are willing to pay more for socially responsible practices
  • 79% of companies now rank supply chain visibility as “very important to value creation.”
  • 49% of companies now rank improving visibility as a top priority.

           Sources:  World Economic Forum,

Increased scrutiny of supply chains is also causing something very exciting to happen: rapid innovation. In order to remain competitive in today’s changing market landscape (and to be embraced by empowered consumers), businesses are finding ways to accelerate transformation in their supply chain practices.

This is especially evident in industries that are dealing with significant disruption, such as agriculture. Faced with an increasingly urgent need for new supply chain management practices, the agricultural industry is helping to drive a number of rapid, positive innovations that will enable greater supply chain transparency. Here are a couple of innovations that are underway to help make agricultural supply chain management more sustainable and transparent:

Digital and Mobile Disruption
A number of new technologies are in development that will help companies monitor the environmental and social impacts of their materials and products. Advanced sensors, data analytics and the growth of the ‘Internet of Things’ (a digital system that connects all electronic devices and enables them to share data) will provide more transparency and traceability from farms to forests to mines and factories. 

In addition, as agricultural supply chains become more global and complex, the need to combine data from different (but related) entities also increases. Developing a common computer network will help solve this challenge. Interestingly, the need for this kind of system interoperability is being mirrored in the healthcare industry as it transitions to value-based care, which necessitates compiling and analyzing data from multiple sources in order to work most efficiently.

Supply Chains become Value Webs
As technology advances and the market becomes increasingly global, there are a growing number of participants in business ecosystems, meaning that supply chains can no longer function in a linear manner. Instead, they are evolving into ‘Value Webs’, which are communities of collaborators who create new value by utilizing sophisticated models of collaboration and competition. The resulting supply webs are more agile and able to be responsive to changing customer needs. Ultimately, Value Webs extend across entire groups of suppliers and connect them to one another in ways that have never been possible in linear systems.

What are the implications of this transformation?
In its simplest form, a request for transparency is a request for information. Consumers want access to real-time information about how and where the products they consume are made, how they are distributed, and their impact on the environment. What’s especially exciting is that transparency is not only about economic value. It's also about economic values, which is a big reason for optimism. Why? Because transparency increases accountability. And shared accountability, coupled with cutting edge technology, exponentially increases the possibility of generating profits while creating good.