In 1887 the Polish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof developed a language he called Esperanto. He first described the language in the book The International Language, which he published in five different languages. Why? No one could read Esperanto. In 2021 it is still mostly the case.
When a person ponders learning a second language they often consider the number of speakers it has. They associate value with numbers. In the case of Esperanto it still has less than 2,000 native speakers. With such a small group of speakers it is mostly an interesting academic topic today, but not very practical as a language for everyday use or business. It needs an ecosystem of participants all actively using it to make it grow and thrive.
Today's global sustainability effort, including the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals and global supply chain risk management efforts suffer from challenges similar to Esperanto's. There are not enough users in the global ecosystem speaking the same language.
What does it mean if a business says they have a green, sustainable or eco-friendly product line? Compared to what? Is there a score that is given each year so you can see if a supplier or vendor is improving their scores over time? There are many different organizations and associations with scores, but they all use different rating systems so comparisons are like apples to oranges. They are speaking different languages.
There are hundreds of different areas that companies could improve their record on, but how do they prove it to the public or to their customers? What rating system or scores are globally recognized? It's not just about marketing your level of eco-friendliness. It's about meaningful change to create a better more sustainable world to live and thrive in.
Pulling back the curtains on most large supply chain risk management programs reveal companies creating their own standards and rating systems, and then asking their suppliers to support them, and to self-report their scores. Buyers have the huge expense and effort of creating their own programs to create standards and then monitor and rate their suppliers against all kinds of issues related to business continuity and issues covered by the UN Sustainable Development goals. Sellers, wanting to keep their buyers happy, absorb the pain, expense and effort of supporting different standards and rating systems for all of their different customers.
The entire ecosystem around sustainable development goals, plus global risk management programs and other important issues need a common language that businesses can use everywhere. It's not about what one company does with their suppliers, it's about what all companies can do together by recognizing their fates and futures are all tied together in both natural and business ecosystems.
More on this topic with global supply chain risk management expert Joe Carson.
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.