Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Quinlan study affirms growing trend toward sustainability

Quinlan study affirms growing trend toward sustainability

A recent study found 51 percent of North American supply chain executives currently consider developing a sustainable supply chain as a strategic priority. The study was conducted through a partnership of Quinlan’s Supply and Value Chain Center, West Monroe Partners, and BearingPoint. 

The study also found that improved competitive advantage and brand image are key motivators for the companies planning to implement sustainability initiatives. Of the companies questioned in the study, 36 percent have plans to incorporate sustainability into their operations. And of that group, 22 percent plan to do so in the next one to three years. 

The Supply and Value Chain Center consulted with West Monroe on the survey design and helped drive respondents to the survey. West Monroe became a member of the Center in 2014.

Sustainability driven by consumers

According to John Caltagirone, executive director of the Supply and Value Chain Center, sustainability and social responsibility are topics on everyone’s mind and are key areas for every modern business. For him, it’s important for Quinlan to have a finger on the pulse of business, which spurred him to participate in the study.

“The study validated some of my thinking about sustainability,” he said. “Ninety percent of my job has me out in the field, talking with companies and listening to what’s important to them. The results match what I’ve been hearing informally about the importance of sustainability.”

A prior West Monroe sustainability study found more than half of North American consumers were willing to pay higher prices (at least 5 percent higher) for products ordered online, if they were delivered sustainably. And 76 percent would allow an extra day of shipping if it meant including climate-friendly transport.

In order to better understand how North American companies incorporate sustainability practices, the results were compared against European data from a prior BearingPoint study. The numbers showed 59 percent of European companies placed a strategic priority on developing a sustainable supply chain.

And like their North American counterparts, European supply chain executives cited “brand image improvement” as their key motivator. However, European executives place a higher importance on the economic impacts of sustainability, versus North American executives, who place a higher importance on environmental impact.

However, some companies find that sustainability can be difficult.

“It’s telling that more companies aren’t implementing sustainable business practices in their operations given the demands of customers,” said Yves Leclerc, managing director at West Monroe Partners. “Most supply chain teams are struggling to manage the complexities of globalization, the war for talent, and increasing demands so allocating budget and resources towards sustainability doesn’t seem feasible unless companies can put together a business case for the return on the investment.”

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Press Mentions

The study was featured in several supply chain publications: