Latin America, Sub-saharan Africa, East Asia and Pacific, South Asia, Mining, Agriculture and food, Manufacturing, Energy, Corporate responsibility and lead firms, Trade and FDI, Environment and climate change, Social and working conditions, Sustainability standards
Global supply chains affect the economy, the environment and social welfare in many ways. Worldwide, economies are experiencing global supply shortages today, affecting key industries such as automotive and consumer electronics as well as vaccine and medical supplies industries. These preoccupy policymakers, who are debating independent national production capacities and restrictions on international trade, but also large companies, which consider reshoring production and abandoning just-in-time procurement. At the same time, the greening of the global economy requires a restructuring of global production to massively decrease its environmental footprint. This creates new supply chain challenges – how to move towards circular economies and how to reorient energy-intensive industries towards renewables and green hydrogen, for example. And let‘s not forget: Consumers are increasingly demanding higher social and environmental standards. Transparency requirements and binding due diligence obligations will in particular affect countries that export raw materials and labour-intensive goods produced under problematic environmental and social conditions.
All of this calls for policies that shape global supply chains in accordance with globally agreed social and environmental objectives. Policies along these lines will have to balance the legitimate interests of different countries and they may easily fail to achieve their objectives unless they are firmly grounded in a thorough understanding of the respective structures in supply chains, including the power relations between the actors. Further, the economic, social and environmental effects of alternative policy options need to be well understood. Science can make an important contribution here, especially if it maintains a constant dialogue with politics and society.
This is why the international “Research Network Sustainable Global Supply Chains” was initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It currently comprises about 100 internationally leading scientists from all over the world and is jointly coordinated by our four institutes. Its tasks are: To conduct and stimulate research that contributes to making supply chains more sustainable; and to collect and synthesize the best international research on this topic and make it accessible to policy makers and other societal actors. In addition to its own research, the network organises academic conferences and discussions with policymakers, organises a blog and produces podcasts. With this report – the first in a new annual series – we present new research highlights, provide a forum to debate controversial supply chain topics and identify policy-relevant research gaps for the network‘s future work. The report is, at the same time, an invitation to participate in the discussions on how investment, production and trade will be reorganized in a global economy that has to respond to geopolitical challenges.