In 2016, over 2,000 suppliers used our category sustainability surveys to report their progress to their retail buyers, up 25 percent from the previous year. These suppliers represented over $200B in sales to their retailer partners. Also in 2016, there were over 64,000 responses to our KPIs, with more than half of the responses scoring below 10%. Of the responses that scored under 10%, 70% of those choose “unable to determine at this time” as their responses.
“We are unable to determine at this time” represents 38% and 40% of all KPI responses for their respective years. It is important to note that most KPIs are not a measure of the progress of sustainability, but rather a measure or a company’s success in obtaining data for a give sustainability issue. A score of 100% on a KPI does not mean that that sustainability issue has been eliminated from the value chain, but that that the responding company has 100% visibility into the sustainability issues in their supply chain. Increased visibility is a huge feat for any company to strive for when looking to eliminate “hotspots”.
This shape of this chart may be surprising. Why are there so few responses in the space between “we are unable to determine…” and 100%? It seems that once companies begin to assess an issue, they quickly progress to assessing it for all of the relevant suppliers, facilities, or products.
The silver lining is of course that companies are reporting even if it means revealing that they have significant room for improvement. Although awareness and activity in sustainability for consumer goods is likely higher than it has ever been, it should come as no surprise that the most companies are still at the beginning of their sustainability journey. Leaders continue to lead and demonstrate the value and possibilities in pursuing sustainability. But, how do we change the shape of this chart? How do we shift response away from “we are unable to determine…” to 5, 10, 50%?
We know that suppliers are working hard to improve their KPI scores through creating internal data collection, improving communication systems, engaging suppliers, changing processes, and/or beginning to communicate publically about their sustainability efforts. Together, TSC, our members, and our partners can help and support suppliers to change these numbers and change the way they report them. Some already are making gains, others haven’t started yet. It is the call for collective action from retailers, suppliers, manufacturer, NGOs and everyone involved in creating more sustainability consumer products that will help us make real changes to these charts, bringing impact at scale to a system already set in motion.